Rees Hughes: Trail Stewards To Work In Arcata Community Forest

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

After a successful two-and-a-half year pilot program supporting the Hammond Trail and the trails at the Friends of the Dunes Nature Center in Manila, the Volunteer Trail Steward program will be expanding to the Arcata Community Forest trail system.

There will be an orientation and initial organizing meeting on Thursday, Feb. 28 at 6 p.m. in the Council Chamber, Arcata City Hall.

The interested and the curious are invited. Contact Rees Hughes at (707) 826-0163 or with your questions.

It is not a difficult job. Volunteer Trail Stewards (VTS), a grass roots program of the Humboldt Trails Council, serve as community eyes and ears whenever they are out walking, running, riding, skipping or hopping along the trail.

Calling in safety hazards, reporting camping or inappropriate use, and picking up litter will be among the on-going responsibilities when out on the trails.

It is important, however, that volunteers not try to be police. In addition, about once a month there will be a Saturday morning work session where volunteers will work with City staff on a trail project. This may be brushing back a section of trail, rebuilding a wash-out, removing exotic plants or improving signage. (We have done that and more on the Hammond and at the Nature Center trails.)

No prior experience or tools required and the only qualification is willingness. Hammond Trail Steward Kevin Wright says that he has found it to “be rewarding work that yields noticeable results.”

So why is a program like the VTS important? First, city and county government budgets in Humboldt County are stretched to the breaking point. The expense of maintaining trails is one of the most cited reasons for resistance to building additional trails.

It costs the county nearly $60,000 annually to maintain the Hammond Trail. The VTS program demonstrates that citizen support and involvement can lower the cost of trail maintenance. I, for one, don’t want the onus of on-going costs to be the reason that new trails aren’t built in Humboldt County.

Second, community presence out on the trails helps minimize vandalism and maximize safety. When the community is involved, we assert our ownership of and responsibility for common space.

I watched the reclamation of Larson Park become complete as families, bocce ball teams and tennis players followed the improvements made to park amenities.

You can make a difference, get exercise, and have fun while doing what you would be doing in the Community Forest anyway. Please help spread the word and join us on the 28th.

Rees Hughes is an author and trail advocate.