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Where Are They Now? Seasonal Crew Leader Jacob Mandell

Posted by Anna Roth at Jul 16, 2018 10:37 AM |

Jacob Mandell worked at WTA for two years and his enthusiasm, gentle leadership and big smile were big motivators for the many volunteers he worked with. He's since taken his expertise to Colorado, where he's on a trail maintenance crew in the Routt National Forest.

2018 is WTA's trail maintenance program's 25th anniversary. The program originally relied on just a handful of volunteers, but in the intervening years, hikers have turned out in huge number to answer the call, with WTA leveraging more than 5,000 volunteers last year. This many willing hands require lots of staff to manage them, and each spring we hire more than 20 seasonal crew leaders to help support our busiest months of trail maintenance. 

Whether they stick around for multiple seasons, or spend just one summer with us, the crew leaders who come through WTA's trail maintenance program touch the lives of hundreds of volunteers, and help WTA realize our goal of keeping trails open and accessible to everyone. We caught up with a few former crew leaders, to see what brought them to our community, and where their lives have taken them since their time at WTA.

Jacob getting ready to start the day on a Suiattle River Volunteer Vacation. Photo by Karen Wang. 

Jacob Mandell led both adult and youth volunteer vacations and day work parties before joining the office staff full time in 2016. His enthusiasm, gentle leadership and big smile were big motivators for the many volunteers he worked with. Now, he's taken his expertise to Colorado, where he's co-lead on a trail maintenance crew in the Routt National Forest. He's in the backcountry a lot these days, but we managed to ask him a few questions between trips.

How long have you done this kind of work, and what made you initially interested in it? 

JM: I began working in the outdoor/environmental industry in 2013, during the summer of my junior year in college. I have been working in various capacities in the outdoors ever since. 

My motivation to get into the industry was a mix of wanting to spend my working hours outside and my passion for sharing the outdoors with others. I had a sense during college that there would be a lot of employment opportunities in the industry once I graduated. 

How did you take advantage of those opportunities?

JM: When I began my major in Outdoor Recreation at Western Washington University, my employment opportunities opened up. In the summer of 2013, I had an internship with the Selway-Bitterroot Frank Church Foundation as a Wilderness Ranger. Then, in the summer of 2014, I worked for the National Park Service as a Wilderness Ranger and Information Assistant in Olympic National Park.

Teaching crosscut
Jacob helps a volunteer crew leader learn to crosscut. Photo by Karen Wang.

Cool! And then you came here. What about WTA first interested you?

JM: I knew about WTA through my friend Jackson Lee (a former youth ambassador) who told me about how awesome WTA was. After going out on a work party in Bellingham and meeting Arlen and some other assistant crew leaders, I was convinced I wanted to work for WTA. I applied during the summer of 2014 for a position and was told to re-apply after I gained more trail experience.

How did you get that experience?

JM: I stayed in my job with Olympic National Park as a Wilderness Ranger and Information Assistant. Through it, I gained more trail and professional outdoor experience by working with their trail crew, which improved my trail skills. Working with ONP gave me firsthand insight into how important volunteer trail workers are to land managers and trails. Working with volunteers in the backcountry is partly what motivated me to reapply to WTA the following summer.

When I got hired in the summer of 2015, I worked in the field as a seasonal youth and adult crew lead. That experience helped me get the job as the Youth Programs Assistant, where I stayed until December 2017. I left WTA to follow my girlfriend Lauren Glass (another former WTA crew lead) to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. She got a great job as the Youth Programs Manager at Rocky Mountain Youth Corps. Leaving WTA was a really tough decision, but ultimately it has been great to start a new adventure in a new state.

Smiles in camp_jacob mandell
Jacob and the Klickitat Youth Volunteer Vacation crew is all smiles in summer of 2017. Photo by Jacob Mandell. 

What did you like most about your job at WTA? 

JM: I loved my multiple positions with WTA for so, so many reasons. The first that come to mind is the community. WTA has such an awesome volunteer, staff, and land manager community, and it was amazing to be a part of it!

And I learned countless skills while I was there. Not only technical trail-building skills, but also leadership skills and how to better work with youth, to name a few. I actually learned most of this working in the WTA office. Planning trainings, organizing my time, doing outreach and contributing in meetings were all new to me and they've proven valuable in contributing to my current job this summer with the Forest Service.

In fact, my experience with WTA really helped me when it was time to move on. I applied to, and got offers for numerous trail-related jobs this summer, so I had the ability to take my pick, which was awesome. But Washington is so lucky to have WTA as a resource! There is nothing close to it in Colorado.

Laughing in rain at Soaring Eagle
Jacob's smile and infectious laughter makes work parties, even in the rain, a lot of fun! Photo from WTA archives.


Free2Roam on Where Are They Now? Seasonal Crew Leader Jacob Mandell

I am pretty sure Karen Wang’s photos of Jacob on the Suiattle are from 2015, not 2016. We were with Karen, Jacob, and Caroline on the trip to Miner’s Creek. Jake was an awesome leader for our first workcation. Steve and Jennifer

Posted by:

Free2Roam on Jul 25, 2018 09:41 PM

Anna Roth on Where Are They Now? Seasonal Crew Leader Jacob Mandell

Thanks Steve and Jennifer, and thanks for doing a volunteer vacation with us. Glad you had a good time.

Posted by:

Anna Roth on Sep 18, 2018 02:15 PM