Keep the Trails We Love Beautiful: Become a Trail Maintenance Volunteer!
- Brush Clearing, brush cutter, brush cutting, brush mower
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So Much Trail Maintenance…
There is quite a bit to be thankful for up here in the Pacific Northwest: great coffee, mild weather (usually), beautiful and varied natural scenery and, of course, a wealth of trails from which to enjoy all that nature has to offer. Whether you are on a mountain bike, in a pair of hiking boots or riding a horse, there are just so many trails to get out and experience nature not only in the Pacific Northwest but all over the country. We are all so truly blessed to have such easy access to nature throughout the entire U.S. Hiking along those miles of open trails up here in Washington, I often wonder how our parks manage to keep them clear through storms that push brush and debris onto the trails, to fallen trees that can block trails entirely. Our national, state and local parks are constantly working at trail maintenance so that those miles and miles of trails are kept clear for us to enjoy. The efforts of volunteers are an indispensable means of making sure our trails are properly maintained.
What Kind of Trail Maintenance Do Volunteers Participate In?
Trail maintenance volunteers get the opportunity to do a variety of work, and this work can often vary depend on the area where you are volunteering and the type of organization through which you volunteer. However, some of the most common kinds of trails maintenance projects include:
- Brushing: cutting overgrown brush in order to open up the trail corridor, especially on the uphill side of the trail. Such work may involve the use of brush mowers, such as the Orec Samurai Walk Behind Brush Cutter or the Orec Cyclone Walk Behind Flail Brush Mower
- Logging out: sawing and removing trees that have come down and are blocking the trail.
- Drainage: creating new paths for water to flow off the trail or clearing debris that has accumulated in drainage structures and prevents water from flowing off the trail.
- Restoring tread: reworking the trail’s surface by digging it to the correct width, removing organic material, digging out protruding rocks and roots and restoring the trail’s outslope
Along with trails maintenance, trails construction projects in which volunteers help build new trails or structures are another common volunteer project type. Some common trail construction jobs include:
- New Trail Building: brushing trail corridors, digging tread to optimal widths and angles and creating drainage structures.
- Building rock walls: digging out a base for the rock wall, finding and transporting rocks and then fitting rocks together to create a wall on the downhill side of the trail.
- Building turnpikes: securing parallel logs, hauling buckets of rocks to fill the turnpike,
- Building bridges and puncheons: finding and preparing logs and lumber, laying stringers that run the length of the bridge, hammering on decking, building steps or approaches to the bridge.
There may be a variety of different tools for volunteers to use, ranging from basic tools to some specialized tools. Please ask your volunteer supervisor for more information concerning tools before you volunteer.
How is Trail Maintenance Volunteer Work Organized?
Volunteer work for trails maintenance is handled differently according to different organizations and states, but one of the most common ways of organizing volunteers is to hold work parties. These parties are often conducted over a couple of days and can be fantastic opportunities for you to sleep out under the stars as well as for getting to know new people who share your interest in keeping our trails maintained. These work parties are often organized in a calendar format, with volunteers signing up for the work party on the date and in the area that is most suitable to them.
What are the Benefits of Volunteering for Trail Maintenance?
Aside from the chance to get out and meet new people, many trails maintenance and construction organizations offer perks such as free one day or even annual passes for their volunteers. Again, the benefits differ according to where and for which organization you are volunteering. Be sure to check with your coordinator.
How Does Someone Sign Up to Volunteer for Trail Maintenance?
Perhaps the best place to start is with your state forest service, as they may be able to refer you to volunteer organizations in your state. If you’d rather go another route, you may also visit the National Parks Services List of National Scenic and Historic Trails. Many of these trails have volunteer groups listed on their own websites that oversee maintenance and construction projects on the trails. Finally, many states have trails associations that organize and oversee volunteer trails projects, such as the Washington Trails Association and VOCAL (Volunteers for Outdoor California).
Now let’s get out there and help make our trails beautiful!