Texas Trail Tamers

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  • Saturday, March 12, 2022 12:59 PM | Scott Newsom (Administrator)

    Dear Trail Tamers,

    I recently had the opportunity to lead a project for the Trail Tamers at the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Center in Fort Davis. This is a special place and a special organization for me and being able to help them meant more to me than you will know. One of the great benefits of leading trips for the Trail Tamers is being able to choose where you want to work and the kind of work you do. This trip allowed me to lead the design and construction of a trail from start to finish for the first time. I love being able to do that kind of project and those opportunities are not frequent on lands that allow public access. This project was heavy on trail design and construction skills. Not all projects have the same demands though. The CTTT does a variety of projects ranging from ½ day local trail maintenance projects and weekend trips within an easy day’s drive of Central Texas to the week-long projects we do in West Texas quite often.  We have done projects further afield in the past and may again in the future. Sometimes we have large groups like we did Monday, March 7th (17 working crew members at the CDNC) to much smaller groups. Sometimes we cook, sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we camp, other times we stay in cabins, or some kind of hybrid. Sometimes we return to the same lands repeatedly and sometimes our projects are one-off jobs. Sometimes the land manager provides the trail crew leader, sometimes we provide that leadership. The variation in potential projects is virtually limitless.

    As a project leader you get to choose. The way the Trail Tamers are organized, you will never have to lead a trip you don’t want to lead or take on a role you are not ready for.  You won’t have a top heavy leadership telling you what to do. What you will have is support, (so long as you give us adequate time to prepare). The primary limiting factor on new growth for this organization is availability of project leaders and crew leaders. Having only a few active project leaders limits how many projects we can take on and that limits how many new members we can sign up.

    The main jobs of a project leader are to 1) plan the project, 2) enter that information into the online project signup software (which is pretty easy), 3) make sure you have tools available and transport those tools to the worksite, 4) teach safety skills, 5) monitor crews and ensure the work meets design specs, 6) be sure your crew is safe, fed and well hydrated. In times past when we had more project and crew leaders available for these projects, these tasks were shared between leadership crews. It is my most fervent wish that we have enough members step up to lead and co-lead projects that we can get back to having each project led by a crew instead one project leader taking on the majority of the work. If you are concerned about the job of project leader being too big, I highly recommend working with a friend or a group of friends to spread out the work, and all of you should consider me your friend! Kevin is also happy to help co-lead projects, and we are both available to help you learn how to lead projects.

    Cooking and feeding the crew and cleaning up afterwards is often seen as the most demanding and perhaps least rewarding job on a trip. I have not found that to be true. On Trail Tamer trips when we cook for ourselves, we take turns doing these jobs and the team work involved is often just as fun as when we are doing trail work. More recently, we have been doing more pot luck type meals and this gives everyone the chance to  show off some cooking skills. This has become one of my favorite types of meals and I expect we will do more of that moving forward. It also has the benefit of spreading out this task. Many hands make light work.  We have also had trips recently where we had a dedicated cook who did none of the trail work, but provided all or most of the meals. Again, the options are virtually unlimited and as a project leader you and/or your leadership team will be able to choose what works best for you or for a given project. The Trail Tamers have a lot of cooking gear and a walled tent that can be used as a camp kitchen when other options are not available. Individual members also have a variety of gear that may be used for outdoor cooking.

    If you have a special place where you want to do some trail work, reach out and let me support you to build a team. If you like the idea of leading a project, putting together a team to lead a project, or if you want to help support projects by taking on a little more responsibility when you go on trips, I just want to let you know I am here to help. I will help you get started and provide all the support you need as you step up into the role that suits you best.  Please feel free to get in touch with me with any questions or concerns. If you have a project idea and want to get started, please reach out and I will help. If you want to lead a trip but don’t know where to start, we have plenty of folks wanting trail crews, but not enough leaders available, so we can make suggestions for that too. One thing to keep in mind as you consider a project is that we have a strong preference for projects on lands that allow significant public access to footpaths and multiuse trails, though we do other work as well from time to time. 

    Finally, if you know of any other members or potential members who have experience leading trail crews who might want a freer hand choosing their projects, please encourage them to reach out to me too. I think the Trail Tamers present a unique opportunity to be creative and provide meaningful, fun volunteer opportunities that will have a huge impact on the lives of the volunteers as well as the end users of the projects we work. I would sure like to see those opportunities grow.

    All the Best,

    Scott Newsom

    President, Central Texas Trail Tamers

    2101 Lanier Dr.

    Austin, TX 78757

    (281) 797-5672

    scott@newsomweb.net

    president@trailtamers.org


  • Saturday, December 18, 2021 12:25 PM | Scott Newsom (Administrator)

    I sit here in the pre-Christmas quiet, tired and sore, but very satisfied after a successful trip to Love Creek where we continued work on the stewardship trail.  During the pandemic with our reduced schedule, I sorely missed the sense of accomplishment, the friendships, the fireside chats and laughter that are the best parts of a Trail Tamer project. It feels so good to get going again. In 2021, we saw successful trips to the Buffalo Trails Boy Scout Ranch, Kickapoo Caverns, Guadalupe Mountains National Park,  The Chihuahuan Dessert Research Institute, Love Creek Nature Preserve, and McKinney Falls State Park in addition to providing training on trail building to the Central Texas Master Naturalists. All things considered, that is a successful 2021 and we can all feel good about the continued contributions of our organization. I hope even more of you can join us during the New Year!

    2022 is shaping up to be another great year of Trail Taming. We are kicking things off in January with a return to Candlelight Ranch. This ranch provides outdoor experiences for disabled kids and we have supported them since the Trail Tamers were founded. Another trip that has been finalized and is on the schedule is a pre-spring break return to the Chihuahuan Dessert Research Center in Fort Davis. Additional trips to the Boy Scout Camp and Guadalupe Mountains  are expected once we work out a few details. We have also been invited to work on trails in the Gila Wilderness this summer with an equestrian organizing providing support in the backcountry. We will have a slate of local projects coming up as well with more work expected in the local State Parks as well as a return later in the year to some of our favorite spots in the Fort Davis area. You can always find upcoming projects at the Events page. 

     I'm looking forward to seeing you all out on the trails. Please consider joining a project and bring a friend!

    Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to All

    Scott

     

  • Saturday, August 14, 2021 5:13 PM | Scott Newsom (Administrator)

    The Trail Tamers are Back! Our first project of the Fall (OK, its still summer) is posted. We will have a workday at McKinney Falls August 28th to kick off the 2021-2022 Trailwork season. We will also be posting new projects in the area as well as a trip to the Davis Mountains in October (does it get any better than that?) and trail projects in the Texas Hill Country. Keep an eye out for new announcements as we will be filling out the Fall calendar soon. I am really looking forward to seeing everyone out on the trails.     

  • Thursday, April 01, 2021 8:35 AM | Kevin Deiters (Administrator)

    The Trail Tamers returned to the trail during March 2021 to assist the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department complete the construction of new trail at Kickapoo Caverns State Park near Brackettville. 

    The park is known for the caverns and hosting millions of bats but does not gets much attention for its hiking trails that cross this historic ranch.

    Planning for the project began during January when Kevin Deiters visited the park for a few days of hiking.  The park has over ten miles of trails and an unknown number of miles of ranch roads that were built by ranchers needing to access their stock throughout the property.  

    Deiters met with park superintendent Kenneth “Doc” Anderson during January to discuss partnering with the Trail Tamers on a project.  Anderson recommended that the Trail Tamers work on the 6.5-mile-Long Way Home Trail (LWHT).  The LWHT is the longest trail in the park and follows an old ranch road around the back of the property.  Unfortunately, each end of the trail terminates at the park road requiring hikers to hike almost a mile on the primary roadway for vehicle traffic. 

    Anderson proposed the construction of two new segments (approximately 1.0 mile long) connecting the trail into a loop and eliminating the need for hikers to dodge vehicles on the park road.  The route was flagged and mowed by park staff and was made ready for brushing by the Trail Tamers.

    Deiters and Cody Glover returned in late January to clear brush on a quarter mile segment that the park staff had flagged on the western side of the trail and to scout the remaining flagged segment of the trail intended to reroute the eastern segment of the trail away from the park road.

    This was the first project undertaken by the Trail Tamers since February 2020 and required the Board to implement several safety new protocols pertaining to COVID-19.  Participants were required to get tested and have a documented negative COVID-19 test within three days of the project or have been vaccinated and symptom free for at least two weeks.  Each volunteer was also responsible for providing their own food and water.

    Six volunteers signed up and worked clearing brush along the segments that had been flagged and mowed by Park staff.  The primarily cleared ash-juniper and cacti along the new segments and installed new signs directing hikers onto the new segments. 

    The highlight of the project was the construction of a drainage crossing using river rock hauled to the location by a skid steer operated by Superintendent Anderson.  This crossing would have taken several days to build by hand; however, the crew was able to knock it out in under an hour with the six loads of river rock that Anderson was able to deliver to the location.

  • Friday, March 05, 2021 7:30 AM | Kevin Deiters (Administrator)

    The Central Texas Trail Tamers (CTTT) is hosting a trail project at Kickapoo Cavern State Park during Feb 15-19th that will include the conversion of an abandoned jeep trail (0.8 miles) to a hiking trail and other trail projects at the Park.  This is a great opportunity to get outside and work in a very unique park.  More information about the park is available at Kickapoo Cavern State Park — Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.

    The CTTT’s volunteer activities are optional and non-essential. Your health and safety is our top priority, and your participation is at your discretion. We understand everyone has different levels of comfort and acceptable risk. If you aren’t comfortable returning to trail work when others are, we support you in returning to trail work when you are ready!

    Registration:  There will not be a fee for the project and the Park is waiving entrance and camping fees; however, you must be an active member of the Trail Tamers to participate and you must agree to abide by the following COVID-19 Protocols.


  • Thursday, October 15, 2020 7:00 AM | Scott Newsom (Administrator)

    I guess it is no surprise that we have been shut down since the beginning of the pandemic. Bringing unrelated people together in close contact for extended periods of time is just one of the easiest ways of spreading this damned virus, so until it is under better control, we won't be doing any of the kind of projects we have done in the past. 

    We will be continuing to scout out projects and make ready for such a time that we can safely work together as a group. So, if you have an ongoing relationship with a land manager, be sure to reach out to them and stay in touch. For experienced trail tamers, our tools are available for solo projects so if you just have to get out there and help maintain a trail you love, let us know. 

    Y'all stay well and say howdy when you have the chance,

    Scott  

  • Saturday, November 16, 2019 10:55 AM | Scott Newsom (Administrator)

    Eight Trail Tamers worked on the Bear Canyon Trail at Guadalupe Mountains National Park November of 2019. They cleared water bars, built steps and rehabilitated tread over a long section of trail about 1.5 miles from the Pine Canyon campground. During a rest day they explored a big hole in the ground just a few miles up the road. I think they call it Carlsbad Caverns. See pictures from the camp and trail here

  • Saturday, October 26, 2019 3:00 PM | Scott Newsom (Administrator)

    Kevin Deiters led a crew of hearty Trail Tamers on October 12th and 13th that included Charlie Grant , Joel Barks, Robert Gross, and Jennifer Hamman. They were joined by Bob Binney, Mark Richardson, and Vivian Gradin of the YMCA working on a trail at the YMCA Robert’s Ranch just outside of Comfort, Texas. At this facility, there is an informal trail leading from the pavilion to the ridge above. This trail, known as the Ridge Trail, is important, as it traverses key ecological sites: riparian, grassland, slope (Steep Rocky) and uplands (low stony hill). The trail is short and easily accessible from the Pavilion. But, it has been in need of improvements to prevent erosion and to enhance the visitor experience. The trail crew had a productive day flagging a quarter mile of trail and then building 750 feet of it from a creek crossing through a grassy meadow up into a shallow ridge.

    This will be an ongoing project between the Trail Tamers and the YMCA. The nest workdays will include finishing the flagged section and Phase three will be the most challenging as we try to figure out how to get to the ridge up the steeper portions of the path. Kevin and the Trail Tamers will be returning throughout the winter and spring to see this project to completion.

    Craig Childs of the YMCA writes: Kevin and his wife graciously donated 2 rouge hoes and two McLeod hoes to YMCA Roberts Ranch, critical tools for building a proper trail! They arrived yesterday and I can't wait to get them dirty! Everyone, please thank Kevin and his team  for their generosity and support of Roberts Ranch. Texas Trail Tamers build professional trails all over the United States. We are blessed to have them involved with Roberts Ranch. This was followed by no fewer than eight very kind Thank You notes from YMCA members who were very impressed with the training and the work completed on the trail.

    I’m sure we will be having new work days on this project soon, so keep an eye out for new signups on our website at www.TrailTamers.org and don’t forget to join us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/288723014414/


  • Wednesday, October 16, 2019 5:05 PM | Scott Newsom (Administrator)

    A Message from the President:

    October 16, 2019

    Howdy Folks,

    A few weeks ago, I was elected President of the Central Texas Trail Tamers Board of Directors. Following some of the greats in CTTT history makes me proud to take on this task. I am enthusiastic about leading an organization for which I have such high esteem. I was elected during a time when the Trail Tamers are needed more than ever by our host organizations, but also during a time when recruiting volunteer trail workers seems increasingly difficult. Our membership is smaller and our bank accounts are lower than in years past. I am determined to make this a low point in our history rather than an end point.

    We have been a proudly independent organization. We are self-supporting and have never charged a dime for the services we provide. Every penny we charge in trip fees goes to supporting our organization and the projects we undertake. We are probably completely unique in that respect compared to other organizations who do the kind of work we do. I wouldn’t change the essential character of the CTTT for the world. I believe we do need to do some things differently as an organization though. We build sustainable trails, but the organization has never been comfortably sustainable, even in the best of times. I believe we can make the changes we need because I believe we have the strengths necessary to do so.  What strengths do we have you ask? Well, I have a few thoughts on that. Please read the little essay below. You will be glad you did.   

    The Value of an All- Volunteer, Self-Supporting Trail Tamer Crew

    When a Trail Tamer crew shows up for a project, land managers see a group of volunteers who help them complete tasks that they simply don’t have the resources to do on their own. Trail Tamers are avid trail users ourselves. We enjoy and value nature. We usually have an interest in the specific region in which we work. We enjoy the sense of community and often develop a sense of responsibility to the natural areas we visit. We want to leave the world a better place than we found it. As individuals, we want to give back to the parks, forests preserves and refuges we love. We often believe in the mission of the host organization and the lands they manage. We have skills that are uncommon in today’s modern world. Completing a project or work day is inherently rewarding for us. We love to get dirty, build trails and have fun. That is just who we are, and land managers tend to understand that. We are perfect volunteers for them.

    As we head home from a project, we often hear from our hosts that our work is invaluable. We bask in the appreciation and honestly, as individuals, we do this because like many volunteers, we love what we do. We don’t think much about the “real world” value of what we provide for the organizations and land managers we volunteer for. Truthfully, we shouldn’t be thinking about those things when we are out on projects. We get outside to get away from those concerns.

    When we get back home and face the reality of keeping an all-volunteer, self-supporting organization running, not to mention growing and thriving, understanding the value of what we do becomes more important. If we are to continue to do what we love, It is critical for us to understand our value and it is just as important for us to be able to communicate to others the value of what we do. Most of the organizations we volunteer for need to be able to accurately assess and report the value of the volunteer work we provide and I suspect that many of them under-report the in-kind amount for what we do.

    So, lets take a look at what we provide from a purely economic standpoint.

    The Trail Tamers own and bring all of our own tools and personal safety gear to every project. We maintain them and replace them as needed. Here is a list of things we bring to projects in amounts sufficient to support a crew of about 10 trail workers:

    Safety Items and Personal Protection Gear: Hard Hats, Safety Glasses, Work Gloves, Closed toe and heel work boots, Dedicated First Aid Kit, Safety Vests, Sun Screen and bug spray. Ice chests and water barrels.   

    Surveying: Range Finder, Clinometer, 100 yard measuring tape, Surveying flags, Surveying tape, Trail condition and planning forms

    Clearing and Brush Removal: Loppers, Hand Pruners Fire rake/McCloud, Hand Saws Pole Saw, Axe, Adz, Machete

    Grubbing and Excavation: Pick Mattock, Short Handled Pick Mattock, Rogue Hoe/Hazel Hoe, Shovels – round point and square point, Diamond Point San Angelo Bar, Post Hole Tamper Bar, Pinch Point Pry Bar, Pulaski

    Materials Transport: Canvas Buckets, Boulder Slings and Nets, 5-gallon buckets, Wheelbarrow, Boulder Cart/Log Dolly, GripHoist  with cables, Amsteel come-along.

    Compacting and Finishing: McLeod, Tamper,  Rake, Shovels, Flat Hoe

    Woodworking tools and Cement Mixing and setting tools as needed.

    You can easily see that we bring well over $10,000 worth of tools to every project we work. If every organization had t buy their own, provide their own maintenance, storage and replacement costs, the sum would be quite substantial. We know one organization that makes their tools available to fire crews, and there is no better way to lose or destroy trail building tools than send them to a fire line. Having a private organization provide the tools necessary also saves administrative costs associated with inventory and acquisition, as well as labor for tool upkeep. Most of the organizations we work for don’t have trained trail workers who know what tools to buy either, so there is an expertise issue involved in providing adequate tools for the specified jobs. And… tools are far from the greatest value we bring.

    Trained experienced, knowledgeable Trail Crews/Labor: Our trail crews have both didactic and field training and many of us have years of experience in trail building as well as associated trades or hobbies. Hiring crew leaders and trail hands with this level of experience or hiring a professional trail crew easily runs into 1,000s to 10,000s of dollars per week. Are we working on a weekend? Guess what? We just saved our hosts overtime pay as well.

    Professional Services – Trail Tamers consult on the design, layout, surveying, planning the build (including identifying onsite materials), and flagging for new trails. We help with assessment of existing trails for maintenance, rehabilitation, re-routing, improvement and closure of existing trails. Depending on the length of the trail, these kinds of services could run from 100s to many 1000s of dollars.

    Onsite Transportation: A 4-wheel drive, high clearance vehicle in good shape, capable of transporting tools and people to back country work sites. One place we work frequently can’t even afford new tires for the decades old vehicles they use to transport crews and tools. How much are they saving by not having to buy a new truck?  

    Education and Training: Throughout the history of the Trail Tamers, we have trained our own crews and many 1000s of volunteer crew members from organizations we volunteer for. Training individuals and groups who can then become trusted Trail Stewards for our host organizations extends our reach exponentially and that includes expanding our value that much.

    Trail Tamers are experienced in the use local materials instead of bringing purchased, quarried materials. Professionals crews bring in expensive uniform rocks and crushed granite (are you not sick of seeing trails constructed with this stuff) where Trail Tamers use mineral soil we dig from the worksite itself. We search the property for rocks that can be used to build walls, steps, water bars, creek crossings, culverts and armored sections of trail and we transport those materials back to the work site ourselves. During one notable project a few years ago, we built a creek crossing about 200 yards downstream from a virtually identical crossing built by a professional crew working for the National Wildlife Refuge. Their paid crew used large machinery to bring in huge rocks from off site and place them at a low water crossing. They couldn’t get their machines to the crossing downstream without destroying a huge swath of vegetation and the approach trails to the crossing. They called in the Trail Tamers and we used boulders of a similar size we found ourselves and moved by hand. We placed the boulders across the creek at a reasonable distance from each other that allowed adequate flow and oriented them with the flow of the water so they wouldn’t wash away easily. We armored the approach to each side so that the bank would not be eroded by hikers stepping to the boulders to cross. I’ll just add here that crossing is still is use today and we didn’t need to drill holes and insert rebar to keep them in place! How much is that worth? How many 1000s of dollars does that save for every project we work?

    Food and Hydration: Trail Tamers plan our own menus and cook our own meals. This saves the cost of a cook or caterer and about $800.00 - $1000 worth of food and drinks needed to feed and hydrate a crew of 10 for a week. For locations without a kitchen to use, we have a full camp kitchen and mess tent. We also take the time to buy and transport this to the property ourselves so our hosts don’t have to.

    Travel expenses to and from a work site can amount to a significant expense and the more remote a location, the higher that expense is. Gasoline for a Truck out to West Texas and back to Austin is in the 100s of dollars now. Travel expenses for a crew originating from all over Texas runs in the 1000s. We are donating those expenses to the host organization every time we do a project.

    The Trail Tamers are a very frugal organization. We minimize expenses whenever we can. We still have administrative, legal, storage, website, promotional and insurance expenses. We could not do what we do and provide the services we provide otherwise. In essence, we donate those expenses to our host organizations every time we show up on a site.

    Can you add all of that up? I’m sure an accountant could place an actual monetary amount on every item and even do magic like account for depreciation and amortization (whatever that means). After reading this summary of what the Trail Tamers provide every time we show up on a project it should be clear that the value of a Trail Tamer crew could easily be placed in the 10s of thousands of dollars for every week we work on a project. How much more is it worth when we return to the same location year after year, sometimes multiple times per year? Now ask yourself what is the value of a trail that doesn’t wash out because it was constructed correctly the first time? How much is a trail worth that can be used to show off the property to potential benefactors? The value of a sustainable trail continues to provide our hosts with dividends long after we are gone. What we do ensures access to nature for future generations as well as for the current needs of those we serve. Knowing that makes us proud.

    I hope that knowing the worth of our contributions will help guide us toward building a sustainable Trail Tamer organization. There are some things you can do right now to help us start to grow and thrive again.

    If you aren’t signed up for a trip check the website and sign up for one soon. We have several local and regional projects that will be posted soon, but the Guadalupe Mountains Trip and the Love Creek Trip will be awesome projects.

    Make a list of friends who you think will like to help on a project and invite them to come out and work with us. Actually ask them to give it a try and join us.

    Consider upping your own membership to a supporting membership. Its only $100.00 per year and that could really help us improve our finances.

    If you read this far – I thank you. I’ll try to be a little less verbose in the future. I’m looking forward to seeing you all out on the trails. Please let me know what I can do to support you as a Trail Tamer. Until then,

    Happy Trails,

    Scott Newsom

    President

    Central Texas Trail Tamers


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