Randy Easter of North Jay, left, Jeff Meserve of Livermore, center and Don Leclerc of Jay work hard to maintain the trails in Jay. Donna M. Perry/Sun Journal

JAY — Walk the trails that run along the Androscoggin River at French Falls Recreation Area and you see the added touches. The meaningful signs, rustic resting places, historic tidbits and hand-painted rocks wedged in the crotch of trees.

“It is a labor of love,” said Don Leclerc of Jay. “We either walk it or work it.”

Leclerc, Randy Easter of North Jay and Jeff Meserve of Livermore meet each week in a covered dugout at the park to plot their plan of action. Leclerc’s wife, Linda, also adds her touch. Easter’s wife, Jenny, and members of the Recreation Committee, including Jenny Boivin, and the town’s highway crew also pitch in at times to help.

The men also maintain acres of trails behind Spruce Mountain High School.

“This group of volunteers deserves our thanks for the countless hours that they spend maintaining and improving French Falls and the Jay Rec Area,” Town Manager Shiloh LaFreniere said.

“From trail maintenance, including clearing brush, laying down wood chips and making and installing trail signs, to painting sheds and dugouts, leading snowshoe hikes and scavenger hunts, to planting flowers, picking up trash and general beautification — this group is focused on preserving and protecting the beautiful park areas in Jay for our community,” LaFreniere continued.

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“Their dedication offers community members the opportunity to enjoy nature within our own town. A walk on the trails before work, a picnic during the lunch hour, or a longer hike anytime are all options that are available because of the great work these volunteers do.”

Linda Leclerc of Jay made this sign that was put up at the gateway to the Riverwalk Trail at French Falls Recreation Area in Jay. Donna M. Perry/Sun Journal

What do they get out of the work they do?  The Leclercs, Randy Easter and Meserve — who all have deep ties to the area — say it is the satisfaction of seeing people using the trails behind the school and the recreation area, and hearing how much they enjoyed it.

One of the biggest things he likes, Easter said, is the people in the area not having to go miles to use the trails. People are so appreciative of having the trails nearby, he said.

Don Leclerc likes giving back to the community. He knows the history of the area and the river, and shares his information with others.

Meserve has been helping for about a year. “I am happy to see these guys have resurrected the cross-country ski trails,” he said, and made other improvements. “I’m happy to see it being done and that I can support them.”

Linda Leclerc said she enjoys helping her husband. “I think the teacher in me — I see things and I have come up with some names,” she said, and puts them in place, such as Pylorox for a pile of rocks and Havaseet for a place to sit.

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Linda, who taught elementary school students for about 45 years in Jay, said when she was teaching she would bring her kids down to the park area and read them stories.

“I think it is beautiful down there,” she said, in a phone interview.  She loves poet Robert Frost’s work and put part of his “The Road Not Taken” poem on a sign at the gateway to the Riverwalk trails at the park. It reads “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

The Leclercs have also put facts about the area on paper and framed them.

All of these facilities have been here for years, Don said, and he enjoys being part of bringing them back. He paints rocks with sayings such as “Be Kind” and has painted ducks on pieces of wood and placed them in certain places along the trail.

The worst part for the group is the continuing damage done by vandals, including breaking a sign and throwing a picnic table over an embankment into the river. Easter and Leclerc brought the table back.

When the town entered into an agreement with the Androscoggin Land Trust for $1 a year, it became responsible for maintaining about 10 acres of the French Falls property that runs along the Androscoggin River for the public’s use until April 2055.

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