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Then and Now: Volunteering

Posted by Erika Haugen-Goodman at May 26, 2016 01:05 PM |
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Joining a work party has never been easier, and volunteers are needed more than ever to keep hiking experiences possible.

Volunteers are at the heart of our work here at WTA. Without our incredible volunteers we wouldn't be able to complete the thousands of work parties we put together each year to help build and maintain hiking trails all over Washington.

A lot has changed since the trail maintenance program was put together in 1993, but some things have stayed the same. Limited federal funding for trails is one of those things. Over the years, funding has continued to decrease, and more of the workload to maintain trails has shifted to volunteers' shoulders. In response to that need, we've seen our volunteer numbers grow into a massive community of people who value trails and want to see them preserved for future generations.

Another thing that hasn't changed in the 23 years the trail maintenance program has been running is the sense of community and the understanding that volunteers make it all happen.

Then: getting off the ground

In 1993, when the trail maintenance program began, two work parties were completed for a total of 250 hours of work on trails. It was a small operation with Greg Ball, the newly appointed executive director from 1992 (when WTA only had 92 cents in its bank account), leading the charge. Together with John Spring, they quickly created a renewed interest in supporting trails with a program that quickly grew to include partnerships with the U.S. Forest Service, Olympic National Park, Washington State Parks and other land managers.

Working on the PCT
Dan Whitaker and Steve Dean working on the PCT at Kendall Katwalk in the early days of the trail maintenance program. Photo by Karl Forsgaard.

In just two years, they went from 250 hours worked annually to over 13,000 hours. The growth was impressive, and it showed that volunteers could truly make incredible things happen when organized under a common goal.

Now: bigger and better

Fast forward to today and the number of volunteers and hours worked far exceeds anything that the early pioneers of the trail maintenance program could have envisioned. In 2015, 4,000 volunteers completed 140,000 hours of trail work all over Washington, which puts WTA as the largest trail maintenance organization in the nation.

We've also made signing up for work parties easier, with online registration and a new way to sort work parties to find one to your liking.

Franklin Falls Work Party 2015
The work party poses for a photo after a day of work on the Franklin Falls trail. Photo by Erik Haugen-Goodman.

In addition to our regular trail maintenance program, we've also added a youth program that now makes up 25 percent of our volunteer base. The youth program offers both day trips and volunteer vacations tailored for high school students in the 14-18 age range. In the same vein of raising tomorrow's trail maintenance leaders, we also have begun offering a Crew Leader College, which trains upcoming and seasoned crew leaders on the latest in trail maintenance skills.

We've grown a lot since 1993, and we're looking forward to seeing what the future brings and the new trails we'll work on. If you're interested in joining us for a work party, get more info, sign up, and meet us out on the trail!

Read more about our history and anniversary at


Trail Work Crews

Another thing that hasn't changed is the pulaski. (Wikipedia) The invention of the pulaski is credited to Ed Pulaski, an assistant ranger with the United States Forest Service, in 1911. Ed Pulaski was famous for taking action to save the lives of a crew of 45 firefighters during the disastrous August 1910 wildfires in Idaho. His invention of the tool that bears his name may have been a direct result of the disaster, as he saw the need for better firefighting tools. Ed Pulaski further refined the tool by 1913, and it came into use in the Rocky Mountain region. In 1920, the Forest Service began contracting for the tool to be commercially manufactured, but use remained regional for some years. The tool became a national standard in the 1930s

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Searching for DL on Jun 03, 2016 12:39 PM