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Champlain Area Trails Awarded State Grants

February 11th, 2021

Champlain Area Trails (CATS) has been awarded two grants from the New York State Conservation Partnership Program (NYSCPP) totaling $63,225.

“We are thrilled to be awarded $28,500 to create a new website that will greatly improve our online presence,” said Emily Segada, CATS Operations & Communications Manager, “We’ve already reached out to designers and are working to have a much more interactive trails page among many other improvements.”

CATS has also been awarded a $34,725 grant to support their Essex Quarry Nature Preserve and Trail project. These funds will help pay transaction costs (legal, survey, staff time) and some of the trail-making expenses.

There has already been great progress on the trails, design plans for a kiosk and interpretive signs. CATS is working to have these be “context-based,” meaning they will use leftover stones from the quarry for these improvements.

“We thank the broad community support for this project,” said Chris Maron, CATS Executive Director, “We are grateful for these two grants that are from the New York State Conservation Partnership Program (NYSCPP) and New York’s Environmental Protection Fund. They, along with previous NYSCPP grants, have advanced our mission to save land, make trails, connect people with nature, and promote economic vitality in NY’s Champlain Valley.”

Essex Town Supervisor Ken Hughes said, “It’s great to have the state support the Essex Quarry Project where CATS is converting a private quarry property to a nature preserve where people can hike, ski, and learn about the history of the quarry and our town. They’ll also learn about the property’s rare forest community, this region’s geology, and fossils. We anticipate visitors will support our local businesses so it’s a win for everybody.”

The NYSCPP is administered by the Land Trust Alliance, in coordination with the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Over $2.2 million was awarded to land trusts in New York State this year, with $351,649 going to North Country land trusts.


Champlain Area Trails finishes 2020 Grand Challenge Hike

January 7th, 2021

Champlain Area Trails (CATS) finished its 2020 Grand Challenge on December 31st, 2020.  Over 300 participants hiked one of three challenge routes described on the CATS website, and earned limited-edition commemorative patches.

“We had a fantastic turnout for the Challenge and are so grateful for all the hikers who showed their support of CATS and having trails in the Champlain Valley,” said Derek Rogers, CATS Development Director. “It was great to see the Challenge get people outside and connected with nature in a time when it was needed.”

CATS usually hosts its annual “Grand Hike” in May, a 10-14-mile long community hike and fundraising event that goes from hamlet to hamlet, combining CATS trails and some scenic backroads. Due to COVID-19, the plans had to be altered for safety concerns.

“We had to switch up how we did our Grand Hike this year,” said Chris Maron, CATS Executive Director, “So we decided to offer the Grand Challenge, a self-managed event where people can hike on their own, and connect with our magnificent Champlain Valley landscape. We had such a great participation this year that we’re already planning more CATS Grand Hike Challenges for 2021 and coming years.”

The 2020 CATS Grand Challenge began on September 21st as a fundraiser to support its mission of making trails, saving land, connecting people with nature, and promoting economic vitality. CATS encouraged people to register with a $25 donation and complete one of three trail loops. Participants who completed the challenge by December 31st received a commemorative patch designed by Willsboro resident and CATS Board Member, Rob Powell.

The Grand Challenge attracted many people from outside the area to explore new hiking opportunities in this region. Tom Beebe and his family brought along some out of town visitors on the Challenge, reporting back: “The weather was beautiful and the trail was in great shape and marked well. The view of Champlain as we walked down to Westport was spectacular. We’re hoping to get to the Boquet Ridge Ramble soon. Thanks for organizing this and what a great job considering the problem with COVID-19.”

Champlain Area Trails (CATS) is a nonprofit, accredited land trust whose mission is to save land, make trails, connect people with nature and promote economic vitality in New York’s Champlain Valley. Information on future CATS events and activities is available at and by following CATS on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Please call 518-962-2287 or email for more information.

Champlain Area Trails Hosts Volunteer Work Day at Essex Quarry Nature Preserve

November 23rd, 2020

Champlain Area Trails (CATS) hosted a volunteer trail project at their new Essex Quarry Nature Preserve on Friday, November 20th.  Volunteers helped staff cut brush and fallen trees along two separate paths that are part of a network of trails going in around the quarry.

The day brought in 16 volunteers, along with 3 staff members. To follow with New York State’s COVID-19 guidelines, volunteers were split into two groups and worked on different trails while staying socially distant.

“It was fantastic to see such a great turnout on a Friday afternoon, especially during a pandemic”, said CATS Executive Director Chris Maron. “We had a great time getting out on the trails, making new ones, and having everyone get a chance to see the quarry.”

CATS purchased the 35-acre Essex Quarry property in Essex, NY in December, 2019 to create a nature preserve that features 400 million-year-old fossils, a globally rare forest type called a “Limestone Woodland,” and a historic rock quarry. Stone carved from the Essex Quarry walls was used in many of the buildings in Essex. It was also reportedly used for the construction of the State House in Albany, as well as the Brooklyn Bridge.

The nature preserve will feature a network of hiking trails with interpretive signs, which can be used for walking or cross-country skiing. It advances CATS mission of saving land, making trails, connecting people with nature, and promoting economic vitality.“It was exciting having everyone out for our first volunteer day in a long time due to COVID. We take for granted the simple things – doing trail work, socializing in our community, and meeting new people. We had a great turnout of board members and community members, all of which were so enthusiastic about the quarry and what we are doing with the preserve,” said CATS Operations & Communications Manager, Emily Segada.

The Essex Quarry Nature Preserve is set to officially open Saturday, June 26th, 2021.

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