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PNT Blog

Volunteer Trail Training

May 24, 2016

What would you do with your life if you didn’t have to work for a living? For me the answer is: everything I can do to protect our natural resources. Currently, I’m honored to work to protect and promote the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail, one of the crown jewels in our National Trails System. Occasionally, I even get paid to pull on a pair of leather boots, wrap my gloved hands around an axe handle, and clear fallen trees blocking the trail. Trail work is undoubtedly the sweatiest and most rewarding task in my job description--in no small part due to the community of volunteers we work with. These are folks who are so dedicated to the idea of trails and public lands that they selflessly donate their time, talents, and resources. 

Volunteers are an invaluable asset to land managers and conservation organizations who, due to our current economic climate, require the assistance of passionate citizen-stewards in the care and keeping of our public lands. That’s why more and more land management agencies and trail stewardship non-profits host trainings: we rely on our volunteers, so whenever we can, we want to invest in their success. Here in the Northwest, spring is in full swing, which means volunteer trainings for interested citizens are popping up like so many tulips. I was lucky enough to attend a couple of these training opportunities a few weeks ago with our sister organization, the Pacific Crest Trail Association (PCTA).

PCTA’s Trail Skills Colleges, which are held in key locations along the trail, are one of our nation’s best (not to mention--free!) trail maintenance educational programs. It is an overwhelmingly positive experience to walk into a room filled with folks of all ages--high school students to experienced retirees--and from all walks of life--dreaded hippies, working single moms, and buttoned-up federal officers--who all share a deep, unflinching love of caring for the most wild and natural places in our country. The skills they come to learn are alluring in and of themselves. In exchange for a bit of free time, a volunteer can get their hands on experience building native timber bridges and rock steps, or safely wielding a crosscut or chainsaw. These days, opportunities to work hard, be creative, and make a difference--all while spending a beautiful day or weekend in the woods--are all too rare.

Rock ClassRetaining Rock Wall Class - PCTA Cascade Columbia Trail Skills College. Photo by Anna Roth / WTA

Fun as trail building and maintenance may sometimes be, it’s also demanding. At Trail Skills College, sitting in the communal hall having dinner with fellow attendees, I listened to their stories: the single mom who gives her precious few free moments to brainstorm creative solutions to protect the resources along her adopted section of trail; the retired veteran who cherishes the familial camaraderie of his trail work community; the young student who can’t wait to grow up and save the world from climate change. While we all shared a passion for the outdoors, each volunteer’s unique perspective means they enjoy their very own reward. These are seldom-sung everyday heroes who give countless hours and buckets of sweat to protect the land we love.

We at the Pacific Northwest Trail Association want to thank all of our volunteers who donate their free time and extra energy, whether at a desk or in the field, to making the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail a world-class long-distance trail. Without you we would not have these incredible, irreplaceable public lands and trails for the enjoyment of current and future generations. Thank you, volunteers, for all you do!

Stephanie Campbell,  PNTA Eastern Regional Director
will be doing trail work with volunteers on National Trails Day, June 4, 2016 and enjoying every minute

Category: People of the PNT

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