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Forest Service Hires WTA Volunteer for Trail Crew

Posted by Anna Roth at May 24, 2016 09:35 AM |

This summer, WTA assistant crew leader Cindy Nguyen will join the Gifford Pinchot National Forest as a member of a wilderness trail crew. We asked her how WTA helped shape her path, and get her to where she is now.

cindy nguyen with grubhoe
Photo by Karl Girardi.

Early in 2014, Washington Trails Association volunteer Cindy Nguyen became an assistant crew leader. As an ACL, she helped WTA crew leaders provide guidance to volunteers, as well as insight for the crew leader when it comes to the project at hand.

This summer, she'll start as a member of the wilderness trail crew on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. We were interested to hear a bit more about her experience with WTA and how it helped pave the way to this position. Here are her answers.

How did you come to WTA?

I first learned about WTA from a flyer posted on a volunteer board at my community college. I liked the outdoors but wasn't much of a hiker at the time and volunteer worked intrigued me.

What prompted you to come out on your first work party with us?

Going through the work party lists and seeing the names of places that I've always wanted to hike, but never seemed to make the time for.

My first work party was at Coyote Wall in the Columbia Gorge. The trail had been on my list for a while, and here was a group of people inviting me to come out and spend the day there.

cindy nguyen and mike griswold ryan ojerio
Cindy with her fellow ACL, Mike Griswold during their 2014 ACL training. Note the shiny hard hat. Photo by Ryan Ojerio.

What made you want to come back and volunteer with us?

I worked both days of a weekend work party and I was hooked. What really made my trip enjoyable were the amazing leaders I worked with who not only taught me a thing or two about trails, but also encouraged me to take pride in the work I had accomplished.

How has what you've learned from WTA translated to the work you'll be doing with the Forest Service?

WTA has given me a wide range of skills, all of which apply to the work I'll be doing with the Forest Service. Everything I've learned from crew leaders about hand tools, trail analysis, and mid-project troubleshooting will be directly coming into play on a daily basis.

The most important skill I've learned from working with WTA is the ability to work closely with a diverse group of people. The relationships built during Backcountry Response Teams (BCRTs) have given me a good understanding of how to read a team of people and find my place in that team where I can be most effective.

cindy nguyen at trail skills college gray feather photography
Cindy sporting a seasoned hard hat, participates in a sign installation course at 2016 Trail Skills College. Photo by Gray Feather Photography.

How do you think WTA and the Forest Service work together to address the challenges posed by increased usage on some trails, while many others aren't seeing the maintenance or use they need?

I think the Forest Service and WTA have built an interesting relationship. The Forest Service has a lot on their plate, trying to manage huge amounts of land while recreational use is on the rise. They tends to focus their maintenance efforts of the areas of greatest need that are also in areas of greatest use.

While they do their best with the resources they have, they fall short on maintaining areas the area used more lightly or that are still in a condition that is "good enough."  This is where is see WTA work parties coming into play.

WTA (and the hiking community) is able identify where the Forest Service may not be able to service, they are also able to help pick up the slack and maintain less traveled trails, even restore trails that are in danger of being completely forgotten.

Want to visit a trail that's been on your list for a while? See where a WTA work party could take you.