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,
President, Central Texas Trail Tamers
2101 Lanier Dr.
Austin, TX 78757