2019 Stewards Empower Trail Users and Volunteers

October 28, 2019
Melissa Cascini
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference

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2019 Stewards Empower Trail Users and Volunteers
Conservation Corps Trail Stewards provide outreach to trail users and support for volunteers.. Photo by Melissa Cascini.

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This year, the Trail Conference’s Trail Steward Program became part of the Conservation Corps. Serving five days a week for six months, Stewards are able to perform more duties than in previous seasons, when they were on trails only on weekends.

In addition to assisting and educating trail users on Saturdays and Sundays, Trail Stewards are available to help volunteer leaders who need a hand with challenging maintenance projects. For example, Board member and Long Path Trail Chair Andy Garrison tackles the trail maintenance of multiple sections of the Long Path, which spans 358 miles from New York City to John Boyd Thacher State Park near Albany.

Most Thursdays and Mondays the Stewards have been going out with Andy to assist in clipping the trail corridor, clearing blowdowns, and building and blazing new sections of trail. Some of the most challenging areas of this trail weave through the Catskill Forest Preserve, where the hike in can gain hundreds of feet of elevation over rocky terrain. It’s projects in areas such as this where Andy has a tougher time recruiting volunteers; therefore the role the Stewards play is crucial in completing projects. “The Stewards are great!” Andy says. “They’ve helped me accomplish so much this season.”

In the process of helping volunteers such as Andy, the Stewards learn techniques that they then use to lead workshops and volunteer maintenance work trips. This fall, the Stewards are hosting a number of Trail Maintenance 101 workshops that can help get “newbies” to the organization out on the trail to learn what the Trail Conference and trail maintenance are all about. These educational opportunities can play a pivotal role in recruiting new maintainers for an organization that relies on the hard work of volunteers. While the Stewards diligently recruit new volunteers, they also work just as hard to ensure current volunteers feel supported in their projects. Without the extended work week, Conservation Corps Trail Stewards would be unable to perform these important functions that keep trails accessible.

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