Updated: Feb 15
Hundreds of miles of recreational trails (hiking, mountain biking, horseback, and motorized) will be created in just a few years in our 5 state service area. Trail creation should be sustainable, embrace the recreational opportunity spectrum (ROS), and allow maximum stakeholder engagement during the policy planning process (equity). Furthermore, there are already hundreds of miles of trail that need to be improved or relocated for sustainability.
Trail Coordinator (TC)
Please read up on our desire to create Trail Crews/s on Public Domain Land.
ASTC believes that states, localities, academia, and workforce development centers are greatly behind on this one, but we could be biased.
Not only are there several types of trails for you to understand, but there are many types of land ownership structures for you to understand.
Here is a link on Land Easements
Before moving one, please read this article.
“According to Tackett, the goal is to continue developing the 1,400 miles of trail inside of the county as they wait to find out the fate of the bill, deciding if they will be able to connect those with out-of-state trails as planned.”
How do you find your niche as a Trail Coordinator?
You could offer a specific Trail Building/Maintaining skill and just focus on the trails. Or you could spend most of your time onboarding volunteers and getting public comments on a new trail or relocation.
When you look for an area to work in you must find out what the town manager's vision is and see if you have the same one. You must also see how much they would like to develop a volunteer cadre. They may just want you and you alone out on the trail, or they may want you to do more office work, policy formation, or community outreach work.
You also can create your own niche by motivating a locality to create their first trail program, or you could be their 5th Trail Coordinator.
You can be an employee of a locality and be under something like Parks and Recreation, or you can create your own LLC and be contracted out.
We would like to create Trail Coordinators who focus on developing long term relationships with stakeholders and who help with the adoption, implementation, and management of trails. See our Stakeholder page for a better understanding on Policy Formation.
More trails and improved trails will bring in more tourists. More importantly, trails that connect to towns and great views and current trails will bring in more tourists.
Is there a model already out there?
There are Trail Coordinators all over the USA and world. They typically work for a government or nonprofit of sorts. However, there are other models. You can have your own business and be contracted by localities. You could have your own nonprofit and outsource to localities. There are even some examples of localities forming alliances, who pool money together to send Trail Coordinators out to near by Federal Public Domain Land. This model would work well in our 5 state service area due to the many acres of National Forests and National Parks.
Do not worry about having amazing mechanical skills. Granted this will help greatly, but the most important skill you need is interpersonal. This will allow you to develop a legion of volunteers and donors, and network with those who can do the job better than you on special projects. Take care of your volunteers, sponsors, donors (equipment/money) and the trails will take care of themselves.
Making trails for different recreational opportunities should be known. So you should have a general understanding on hiking, biking, horse, ATC and side by side, jeep, and even forest roads. You do not have to have great skills in each of these, you just need to know how to maintain them at the very least.
You will need to know basic chainsaw use (trees down on the trail), and how to use various other trail tools. If you work in Federal Wilderness Areas you will need to know how to use a crosscut saw. You will also need to know how to work a griphoist
A great way to gain some skills and see if you like this type of work is volunteering with the Konnarock Trail Crew of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. They go out on 5 and 6 day hitches and work 8 hours day.
Branding and Marketing
So, how do you brand yourself as a Trail Coordinator? There is no licence, permit, or nationally accredited degree program for you to have on your resume’. The best thing to do is study and get out there and put in some work in the field with people who know what they are doing. When you are volunteering, wear Personal Protective Equipment! This will be required by your future employer and show you understand risk management. Study up on the trail systems you would like to work in.
There is no government regulation on this model. There are not any 2-4 year higher education degrees in our 5 state service area that we are aware of. The success of this social entrepreneurship will come down to 2 things.
1. How well you present the need for work to be done in the present and near future.
2. How well you present the case for a part time or a full time Trail Coordinator to manage the work needed.
If you drive volunteers in vans and passenger vehicles you may need some type of permit, so double check with your state chamber of commerce or employers.
Clearly you will be motivated to do the work, because the pay will not be great. So if the pay is not great, is this a job or a career? Is it a stepping stone to more resource conservation? We recommend that you get into a public servant mindset. This type of work should be a natural fit for you and your vision for your community and region you plan on living in for decades.
However, your pay may be very respectable, or at the very least you may receive respectable pay raises as the months and years go by and you are getting results.
If you offer contract work, you should go with a Single Member LLC.
There are no expenses if you work for a locality. If you start your own LLC you may not even need to purchase your own tools if a town already has them.
This is highly variable because at times you are trying to motivate a locality to hire for a position that they are not asking for.
Do some research and see what areas need the work done.
Find out what kind of Trail Coordinator they need. If they have a lot of seniors who have strong Boardroom skills, offer to be the guy who gets out in the dirt and gets things done and knows how to recruit young volunteers who can energize stakeholders.
Go out and hike their trails and take pictures of the blight, and create a presentation. Have quotes from recreationists who have left reviews on the internet.
Show how you can improve trails that are vanishing and how it will bring more tourists into their towns.
Show how you can connect trails, and how that is a tourists multiplier. Trails that go out and back are ok, but trails that link up to other trails and tarmac roads are much better.
Show your connections and how you have other stakeholders who would like to work with you. Here is where some volunteering comes into play months earlier.
Try to make the offer not to a town, but to an association that has several counties involved. They can pool more money together, plus you will not run out of work for a long time, AND you can damage control spots that need lots of work over a larger land mass, thus greatly improving the tourism experience for those counties and helping their brand.
Showcase your volunteer onboarding Standard Operating Procedures.
Talk of the importance of getting community buy in with policy adoption, implementation, and management.
Have strong numbers on how your work will save money in the moderate to long term.
Network with Trail Coordinators and Trail Clubs and see how you both can help each other. Already have these connections and references.
Network with the National Forest and National Parks and see how you can both help each other. Already have these connections and references.
Be prepared to show how a volunteer work hike outing would go from start to finish with, with a focus on safety and emergency evacuations.
Do not overwhelm with your sales pitch. Keep it simple by offering 3 hour work hikes with locals. Do not go into elaborate overnight events that last days. Save that for later once you have established confidence in your employers.
Make the work hike about the experience and not the metrics on the ground when you lead work hikes. This is the best way to get volunteers to be bitten by the Trail Crew Bug.
Have your own social media accounts with loyal followers who are ready to volunteer with you on the trail.
Day to Day Routine
Carry out the strategic plan that makes the trail vision possible by collaborating with stakeholders.
Create, reevaluate, and carry out the standard operating procedures when out on the trail alone or with others. This includes communication.
Create or reevaluate standard operating procedures for medical problems and accidents.
Create or reevaluate casualty evacuation routes for the various trail locations you will work out of.
Clean and maintain your tools and equipment
Onboard Volunteers for work hikes.
Put in requests for safety gear and more equipment for volunteers to use.
Visit public planning meetings that involve trails and recreation to network with stakeholders and voice the message of your employers.
Document the work that is been done by you and others, with metrics in order to create end of the year reports.
Take pictures of the trail before and after work was done to motivate more donations from other stakeholders, and to let others know their tax money is going to good use.
Possibly drive volunteers to work sites in vans and other passenger carrying vehicles.
Prevent conflict and resolve conflicts between volunteers.
Do assessments of the trails and present your findings and recommendations.
Use various tools including chainsaws and crosscut saws within the trail corridor.
Manage other paid staff and write reports on their work.
Review basic health screen waivers and interview volunteers about medical issues like allergies
Some towns are short on funds and will not be able to take you in no matter how good of a sales pitch you have.
You may be laid off at a drop of a hat if the budget looks bad.
Some localities may see too much of a liability or more work on them. Worse yet, they may not want to work with other localities when it comes to public domain land that is at their doorstep.
Volunteers are harder to come by than in decades past, yet we have more weekend warriors than ever. You just have to find the right value exchange to create loyal trail hands. One exchange is teaching new skills, and another is allowing them to network with others who are like them. Another is making the case that they are stakeholders after putting in the work on the trail and therefore have a say in the planning, management, and evaluation of current and future trails. Of course, food, beer, and T-shirts also help. But this all costs money.
Environment Sustainable trails have the least amount of impact on the forest ecology. You will be also teaching volunteers Leave No Trace principles along the way.
The Improvements to the outdoor tourism experiences will create positive reviews on social media and create return visits. You may motivate volunteers to take up careers in Natural Resource Conservation Management. The big ticket item is having folks moved to your area!
As a Trail Coordinator you will create more stakeholders who have equity on the landscape, and who will form lifelong bonds with each other. You will allow more people to get outside and improve various hard skills, and soft skills. Once again you will be helping transform the rural Appalachia economy by diffusing political power and help build a nature based tourism brand that diversifies the economy.
How ASTC can help you with your new organization (no cost)
We can help you with your sales pitch or refer you to localities that need your help.
We have a list of Management Consulting that can help you with marketing and branding.
We have a Tourism Consulting list.
We have an Entrepreneur Incubator list of regional organizations.
We have a Voluntourism List.
We have a Policy Formation List, if you are involved with public policy formation.
We have a Collaboration List.
You can interact with stakeholders on our ASTC’s stakeholder sub-forum.
We can start your own group on ASTC to better communicate and plan with your volunteers and staff.
You can promote your organization with several of our blog topics.
Voluntourism is one of the 65 topics on our tourism site. We can add a link to your email or other internet sites here. We will put your work hikes on our calendars. We can also put your link on our Guide page as well. This is an option if you will be leading work hikes.
We can put up job offerings that you need filled.
You can also look for grant opportunities.
We have an Entrepreneur Incubator Information and Calendar page to look over.
There is excellent potential for Trail Coordinators in our 5 state service region as we continue to diversify our economy with nature based tourism. Many rural areas are surrounded by public domain land with trails that have been neglected for decades. Organizations are creating more trails that will need to be looked after long after they have been created.
Please offer us any feedback and join our ASTC General Discussion Blog Sub-Forum to discuss this blog.
Appalachia Sustainable Tourism Collaboration