Working on national forest lands comes with conditions.
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) must be taken into account. So must limitations on funding from the U.S. Forest Service.
The act requires that federal agencies, and groups that work on federal land, take the environmental impacts of their projects into account.
Students assistance has proved invaluable
The limited funding means groups have to find private investment dollars if they want to make projects happen.
Pennsylvania Kinzua Pathways is no stranger to NEPA and finding the necessary partners and pathways to make things happen is part of its title.
Since the group was formed by a group of Leadership Warren County 2009 students, PKP has been working to connect the county's dots by forming pathways. Its members have learned how to deal with the federal government.
"PKP is a very patient group," Bradford District Recreation Team Leader Julie Moyer said. "They ask many questions and realize that government agencies are limited with employee and financial resources."
"They learned early in the partnership that projects can be accomplished through advanced planning through progressive small steps and financial phases," she said. "They learned that forest service has limited capital investment funds and even less maintenance funds, so any investment on federal land would have to come through private funding and that capital improvements would only happen if they could guarantee long-term maintenance."
PKP's first primary project was a hiking trail from Kinzua Beach to Rimrock overlook - the Rimrock Trail.
The group and the agency worked together successfully on that project.
The trail, including benches, a handicapped accessible platform, and information kiosk, is complete. There are finishing touches - signage at the trailheads and signs at the kiosk and platform carrying information about flora, fauna, geology, and history of the area - that remain and the group hopes to continue its work on that project this year.
"All of this has to be carefully coordinated with the ANF team so that we comply with any rules and regulations regarding material, size, placement, etc.," PKP founding member Joe Colosimo said. "They have been more than helpful throughout all of these projects and have provided valuable input and direction."
The environmental impact statements (EIS) that must be prepared to meet NEPA's requirements are just part of the deal.
While most of the NEPA concerns with the Rimrock Trail are in the past, the group's next effort, the Trails at Jakes Rocks mountain biking trail system, is in the middle of it.
Students from University of Pitt Bradford, Clarion University, and Indiana University of Pennsylvania have been brought on board to perform the legwork on the biological and heritage portions of the
"We are making great progress on this project," Colosimo said. "The ANF team have been awesome partners with this project. We have been working with them from concept up through where we are today."
"(Bradford District Ranger) Macario Herrera, (Bradford District Planning Team Leader) Steve Dowlan, and Julie Moyer, are currently the ANF members we work most closely with," Colosimo said.
"PKP is very appreciative of the time, guidance, and expertise that all of the members of the ANF team have provided to date," Colosimo said. "We have found working with them to be rather easy, straight forward, and rewarding."
"Great things and partnerships are happening," Colosimo said.
"It's all about partnerships," Moyer said.