How I Got Involved

In early May 2016 I happened to be hiking with someone in Prince Gallitzin State Park in central PA, and I began to think about trails and wondered about how they were built and maintained. I was recently retired and looking for volunteer work of some sort. Since I’d been a distance runner for a long time and also enjoyed walking though the woods, outdoor work was particularly appealing to me. At the time I didn’t know much about the trails near where I lived but eventually did some research and found the website for the Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy (RCTC) and used it to contact Donna Stolz about the possibility of volunteering to help maintain the Rachel Carson Trail (RCT). She responded two days before the annual Rachel Carson Trail Challenge and wrote that volunteers are always needed for the event. She provided a link to the volunteer roster that listed the course checkpoints and the volunteer roles at each of them.

I determined the nearest checkpoint to where I live was at Shaffer Run Road and found that the only opening left there was for a Water Marshal. I signed up for it even though I didn’t know what a water marshal might be, but just in case, I bought a large container and filled it with water before going to the checkpoint. Ordinarily this would have been a waste of effort, as by that late date arrangements had already been made for plenty of water to be provided, but in this case the water buffalo truck was running a little late, and the water I was able to provide was in fact helpful.

Most of what I did at the Challenge was to fill water bottles and hydration bladders for the tired hikers coming through on that hot day, and I have never been thanked so sincerely and by so many people before or since. I also decided that I’d be crazy to ever attempt what these dedicated hikers were doing.

The next step in volunteering was to adopt a section of the Rachel Carson Trail to maintain. I chose the Lefever Hill section as one without a trail steward, and Mark Eyerman met me with a set of tools, showed me the section and demonstrated the use of tools and the process for blazing.

The following year I again volunteered to help at the RCT Challenge, and over my first two years with the RCTC, I helped with new routes and reroutes on the RCT and on the Baker Trail. I also met George Bender at one of the Barb Peterson Memorial Hikes, and he invited me to join a group that hikes on Saturdays all year. One of the other leaders of this group was Doug MacPhail. At that time Doug was a member of the RCTC Board, and after getting my reluctant permission, he nominated me for a position on the RCTC Board. I really didn’t know what I was getting into and felt a little inadequate as I soon learned how much the experienced Board members regularly contributed to normal operations and ongoing improvements of the RCTC. They proved to be really welcoming to this new member and I soon learned that they had something in mind for what was to be my major contribution to the Board.

Each year in May we have Board elections for president, vice-president, treasurer and recording secretary. At the end of the May meeting of 2019 I was surprised to find that I’d been elected Board President. Advancement can happen quickly in this organization! After serving two one-year terms I chose to nominate Betsy Monroe for the office of Board President, and she accepted and was elected. Now I continue to serve on the Board and on three of the RCTC committees as well as continuing work as a trail steward.

In addition to becoming more involved with RCTC work, joining George, Doug and others for regular hiking on Saturdays convinced me that I could complete the RCT Challenge, and I did so in 2018, 2019 and this year in 2021.

Finally, those of us who volunteer for trail work, whether or not we are maintaining sections of our trails, have been especially busy in improving existing parts of our trails and making use of property acquisitions to improve hiking experiences with reroutes. This might sound like a lot of work, but everyone I’ve known who has volunteered for such work has greatly enjoyed it.

In addition to what I’ve done there are many other opportunities for volunteers to help our wonderful organization. Please consider reaching out to Donna Stolz, our Volunteer Coordinator if you want to learn more about what you can do to help.


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