November 21, 2012

Volunteers Work in Princeton’s Preserves After Devastation of Superstorm Sandy

CLEARING THE TRAILS: The fury of Superstorm Sandy caused considerable devastation at Princeton’s natural preserves. Volunteers, led by Princeton Friends of Open Space Trailblazers, have been working since to restore the trails and clear the areas of brush and debris. Shown here are Dana Oley and Brian Rosener of Blue Ridge Mountain Sports, who are among those who have helped with the effort. (Photo by Eric Tazelaar)

Since the destruction of Superstorm Sandy, anyone attempting to walk the paths of Princeton’s preserved woods and natural areas hasn’t gotten very far before encountering a fallen tree trunk. The record-breaking storm left its mark on Witherspoon Woods, the adjacent Mountain Lakes Preserve, and Community Park North, making paths normally strolled by nature-lovers and dog-walkers impassable.

But almost daily since the storm passed, volunteers have been working in the woods with chain saws and brush-clearing equipment to help bring the area back to normal. The Friends of Princeton Open Space Trailblazers, joined by other helpers, are opening up or rerouting paths affected by the fallen trees.

“It’s a pretty remarkable group of people,” said Fred Spar, a board member of Friends of Princeton Open Space. “They have been out there, keeping the trails clear, for a number of years on a regular basis. But since the storm, several people have been there almost daily and a fairly large crew comes out on weekends, six or eight people at a time. Some are from Blue Ridge Mountain Sports, and others who just heard about it show up to help. It’s been a huge help.”

Those who don’t frequent the woods may not realize the extent of the damage. “It’s pretty bad,” Mr. Spar said. “There are areas where it was just like dominoes — one tree fell, and the next one, and then the next one followed, and so on. Just beyond Mountain Lakes House, there’s an area where there were mostly conifers, and it’s just devastated. It’s all gone. There are many places where you start out following a trail, and then you have to stop.”

The cleanup continues, and more volunteers are needed. “The storm caused the loss of access to some beautiful natural areas that a lot of people in the community have come to enjoy,” Mr. Spar said. “It’s sad to see all these great trees fallen and paths obstructed. We still need help, and we welcome anyone who wants to volunteer.”

To join the effort, contact