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Summer School: WTA's Crew Leader College

Posted by Anna Roth at May 20, 2015 01:20 PM |
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How do the people you volunteer with know so much about trail maintenance? They went to college -- Crew Leader College, hosted annually by WTA.

When you’re volunteering on trail with WTA, you may get help from someone sporting a bright orange hard hat. They’re always ready with a smile, advice, or the candy for the 10:00 a.m. break. It’s clear that these people are experienced in trail maintenance, and the work they help you complete is of professional quality.

What you may not realize is that those orange hats–-also known as assistant crew leaders or ACLs--are volunteers themselves. And most of them hold day jobs that don't involve trails. So how do they know what to do out there?

They go back to college.

Volunteers go back to school

Each spring, WTA prepares for an intensive, two-day session of trail maintenance courses known as Crew Leader College. Last weekend, more than 120 assistant crew leaders, crew leaders, and land managers from all over Washington congregated in North Bend for the two-day event. WTA has been hosting the event for nearly 20 years, teaching our volunteer leaders everything from the basics of trail work to more advanced skills.

Tim talks trails Anna Roth
New ACLs and Forest Service evaluate a muddy turnpike with Tim Van Beek. Photo by Anna Roth.

New ACLs learned how to identify problems on trail and determine the best, most sustainable solution. Those who already knew how to identify trail issues learned how to address them in intermediate, hands-on classes. Students learned how to build effective rock structures and stream fords, build sturdy structures for steep areas, and repair damaged tread and drainage.

Advanced courses were offered to volunteers interested in learning specific skills, like Initial and Advanced Crosscut Saw Certification or Basics of Rigging and Highline.

WTA trains the trainers

Who taught these classes? WTA staff, with the help of several extremely knowledgeable volunteers and land managers. These are people who have been in the volunteer trail maintenance program for years, honing their expertise through years of practice, and then sharing it with our volunteers.

Superstar volunteer instructors included board members Lisa Black and Mason White, who put in some time teaching about building wood crib walls and advanced crosscut sawing, respectively. Tool experts Craig Jackson and Bud Silliman led classes on the crucial subject of tool maintenance.
Rock work pros Pete Dewell and Mike Owens offered professional advice on building structures with rock, while Spokane's volunteer crew leader Jane Baker and Olympics crew leader Charlie Romine led a session on structures in wet areas. And volunteer ACL Darrel Dochow taught with crew leader Zachary McBride the all-important subject of tread restoration--after all, hikers have to have somewhere to put their feet!

Laughing at Tiger Mountain Anna Roth
New ACLs Doug Murray, Greg Rixon, and Steve Smith share a laugh with seasonal crew leaders LeeAnne Nawrot and Jen Haas. Photo by Anna Roth.

In addition to the trail skills courses, we offered First Aid & CPR and Leadership and Emergency Response, rounding out the set of skills offered to participants. By the end of the weekend our volunteers are equipped with both technical knowledge and interpersonal skills--truly embodying WTA’s trail work philosophy of “Be Safe, Have Fun, and Get Some Work Done.”

...And you learn from them!

As WTA’s volunteer program grows, the annual Crew Leader College trains more and more invaluable ACLs who help us provide you with a great experience on trail. Without our volunteer leaders, we couldn’t complete the massive amount of trail work we get done each year.

Plus, they're a fun bunch to work with. Sign up for a work party now and see for yourself.

Hats off to volunteers Kindra Ramos
So get out there and meet one of these delightful volunteer leaders. See you on trail! Photo by Kindra Ramos.

WTA's Crew Leader College is supported in part by a generous grant from The Boeing Company. Thanks for helping make this training possible.