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Somerset Lake Action Committee
SLAC has been meeting throughout the summer to discuss plans for development of Somerset Lake Nature Park. The money for the replacement of the dam is in place and the lake is scheduled to be drawn down after Labor Day 2017. The Park is envisioned to have restrooms, picnic pavilions, canoe and kayak rentals, and trails to explore the 200 acres around the lake.
The first order of business is to establish a route for a trail circling the lake and brush it out to establish what will need to be done. This process was started by the Somerset County Conservancy in 2011 with a hiking trail on the west side of the lake built with some of the memorial funds for Retta Payne who loved birding and canoeing at the lake. A large group of volunteers this summer have pioneered a route and brushed out a trail from the south side of the present dam, completely around the south, east, and north sides to meet back up at the established trail. There is now a foot trail encircling the lake with the exception of the area immediately around the dam and the PA Fish Commission SW Headquarters building. This trail is nearly 5 miles long and, with a pair of boots, anyone can now walk around the lake! One of the most enjoyable aspects of the trail clearing was seeing the enthusiasm of the volunteers and hearing comments from young people like “Wow, someday I will be able to say that I helped build this.” The buy-in of the community and especially young people in outdoor activities and appreciation of nature is what the Conservancy is all about.
There are several obstacles such as 3 small stream crossings and a large wetland area (when the lake is refilled) which will need engineering work and proper structures built. The Conservancy is willing to keep working on a cost effective trail and structures suitable for walkers, joggers and nature lovers to enjoy this beautiful spot right in Somerset Borough’s back door.
East Side Trail Plan progress done in Summer 2016 by SLAC Volunteers
Preliminary trail route layout was selected to follow a path of least infringement on wet areas and then easiest route that would require a minimum of disturbance of soil and trees. The Preliminary trail route was then GPS recorded and plotted prior to the group of volunteer’s coming to grub out a path.
About one third of the East Trail is in good shape and the rest is roughed in, Permits are going to be required to construct boardwalks and bridges across wetlands and streams.
Everything done to date has been accomplished by volunteers and donated materials.
Somerset County Conservancy has construct a walking and birding trail along the western side of Somerset Lake with viewing areas at strategic locations along the trail. The trail is constructed on the uplands along the western shore to avoid disturbance of the wetlands and marsh areas. The one and one-half mile trail passes through diverse habitats including alders, hardwoods, planted spruce and pines as well as open areas creating viewing access to migrating and breeding warblers, sparrows, thrushes and orioles as well as views of the water. The addition of this trail has increased low impact access to this valuable resource and enhances the experience of the birding community and others who wish to hike through this varied woodland. The trail complements the property’s existing fishing resource and will attract considerably more visitors to one of the crown jewels of the Laurel Highlands.
The trail begins at the parking area off Wood Duck Road by the cove nearest to and just north of the Southwest Regional Headquarters Building. It follows north along the side of Wood Duck Road crossing three drainage ditches; to avoid construction in the wetlands. The trail proceeds around the curve in Wood Duck Road to a point beyond the wetlands where it turns into the forested scrub brush and continues until it meets up with the existing mowed grassy path that follows the lake edge around to the South Boat Launch. After passing the boat launch the trail enters the upland scrub forest and remains in the forest until approaching the wetland at the northern end of Wood Duck Road. At this point the trail exits the woods and follows the side of the road crossing an existing drainage culvert pipe. When clear culvert the trail reenters the woods and continues through the forest emerging at the northern Boat Launch. The trail extends beyond the boat launch on the existing grass path to the terminus.
The trail surface along the lake shore is a grass surface with an occasional marker indicating the trail direction. The trail surface in the wooded scrub forest area is course mulch like substance. The trail is intended to be a low impact, low maintenance, walking path used to observe wildlife and access the lake for fishing.
Pictures below show some of the trail construction by a few of the many volunteers that helped with the project. Clicking them opens up a full size image.