By Jessica Cohen
For the Gazette
PORT JERVIS - Watershed parking lots are packed, but people are social distancing on the trails, says Mike Ward, Port Jervis Outdoor Club president.
“We don’t see real groups, and people watch to be sure they’re not in groups,” he said. “We know people want to be outside, and the state is encouraging trail use. We want to encourage hiking, biking and trail running.”
One day last week he counted 27 cars parked along the road from Reservoir Avenue to the trails. But picnic areas are closed, as is the popular pump track with its undulating terrain for venturesome bicyclists.
“We received photos of lots of people congregating on the mound,” Ward said, referring to the small hill where people wait their turn to ride the pump track circuit. “You get 50 or 60 people up there after they’re told to stay home. They think they’re above social distancing. The pump track was closed and barricaded on April 5, and it’s patrolled by police.”
At the Reservoir Avenue entrance to the trails, in the early evening last week, two pump track enthusiasts from Pennsylvania said that a Port Jervis police officer at the pump track had suggested they try the trails. Nick Christensen, 19, a driver at Dingmans Ferry Stone Quarry, rode with Caleb Conklin, 20, who works at Home Depot.
“This is the only local place with decent trails. We come as much as possible,” Conklin said.
“We love to get out and explore,” Christensen said.
Also making use of the trails for exercise that evening was Rick Northup, of Huguenot, an insurance salesman in Port Jervis. He came with Pearl, his 9-month-old bulldog-Labrador mix.
“I come every day, biking or running,” he said.
Asked about the sandals he wore, he said, “I’ve done 3,000 miles on these.”
He had tried barefoot running, but that was rough in the woods. So, he bought Luna sandals and then began making his own from garden tractor tires.
“I put on socks in the winter,” he said. “It’s funny. My hands get cold, but my feet stay warm.”
Because offices and stores where maps had been available are closed, links to trail maps were put online, Ward said. News and videos about the trails and other Outdoor Club activities are posted on several Facebook pages, including pages for the Outdoor Club, Port Jervis Pump Track, and Positively Port Jervis, he said, noting that they get thousands of views.
“Normally we do weekly track and trail reports - news and events, what’s open and closed,” Ward said. “Now we do it every three weeks, but we’ll start doing it weekly again to get people into doing things on their own.”
The Outdoor Club is also taking donations for a “meal train,” which provides meals from area eateries for Bon Secours Community Hospital.
“There’s a massive number of patients, and they need packaged meals staff can take. They only have a minute, and they don’t want to sit with other people,” Ward said.