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Cunningham struggles with Sandy damage

Richard D. L. Fulton

(12/22) Cunningham Falls State Park staff, Frederick County, continues to address storm damage resultant from Hurricane Sandy, a rare and destructive coastal storm that struck the area with a glancing blow in late-October.

According to Acting Park Manager Rob Dyke, the park actually didnít suffer as much damage as it could have, given to power of the portion of the storm that struck the region. "We were lucky we didnít have more damage than we had."

Never-the-less, the storm did level numerous trees in the park, some of which came down with devastating results on park assets, including buildings, vehicles, camp sites and trails.

Basically, he said, the damage to park facilities was concentrated in down the Manor area, which is roughly located across Route 15 from the Catoctin Zoo. "We had approximately 100 trees come down that affected our operation and facilities in that area," he said, "and that does not include the trails."

Within the damage area, he said, "We had two vehicles, the maintenance shed and the visitor center damaged by trees.

The vehicles damage included a maintenance vehicle and one of the outreach vehicles. The windshield and roof on one were damaged, and the other sustained dents and other damage but remained drivable.

Work on the damaged maintenance shed and visitor center continues in the hopes of having the park back on track by April 4.

Trees fell through the roofs of the two buildings during the event, damaging the roof and "approximately a dozen rafters (that were) broken in some manor" on the shed, and the roof and "four or five rafters" on the visitor center. The roofs of both buildings will have to be completely replaced, as well as some of the dry walls.

However, he said, in spite of being assailed by the heavy trees, "There was no structural damage. We were lucky in that manner. I donít know if the trees came down slowly, or what, but there was no building damage, just roof damage. The buildings were spared from serious water damage after the roofs were breached. "I donít think we got much rain after the trees came down, so we were lucky on that."

The concern now was getting the roofs replaced before the first serious snow event. As of Christmas, the opening were protected by tarps, although replacement was already under way. "We had tarped them but that wouldnít hold any significant snow," he said.

In spite of some damage to the aviary and animal compounds, Dyke said the animals were generally not affected. Electricity was out in the park in general, but the staff set-up a generator to provide heat for the animals. "There was nothing serious there. None of them (the birds and reptiles) were affected by it."

The Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, comprised of volunteers, pitched-in to clear the park trails, investing "hundreds of hours" to remove trees and debris. The trees that fell on the trails was not included in the 100 fallen tree count given for the Manor area.

"I couldnít even begin to tell you how many trees those guys moved hundreds probably Catoctin Trail was in very bad shape," he stated. Campsites were also damaged as the trees fell and their roots tore up the ground in the camping areas.

What to do with all those fallen trees? "We doing a timber sale," Dyke said. "Weíre going to sell all that. That is really good wood we donít want it to waste." "Weíre going to open it up for bids sometime in early January," he said. "There will be public notice" posted of the sale.

The winning bidder will then be able to go into the park "for a certain amount of time and harvest as much of that downed stuff as they can."

Why the damage was so isolated in the expanse of the park, Dyke stated, "The wind funneled-down that mountainside right through that one area. We donít know what it was (such as straight-line wind). Weíve had other storms come through and havenít had that kind of damage."

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