What Can I Do to Help?
These are the tasks PLT really needs help with in 2015! To volunteer for any of these tasks, contact the Stewardship Coordinator through email@example.com, or sign up through our website.
Click on the headings below to read the description!
Without trail brushing, many of PLT’s trails will slowly disappear. In fact, we already have some older trails that are hard to find! Brushing involves cutting branches and shrubs back from the trail, and clearing small downed branches and logs out of the trail corridor. Brushing is an excellent task for a team of two people, or larger groups broken into pairs. It can also be a solitary task, and many of our volunteers appreciate the chance to do some quiet, rewarding work during their solo walks.
Required tools are minimal, and most will fit in a backpack. A typical light brushing of a trail section will only require loppers and a folding hand saw. Many brushers also carry hand pruners for small branches and a bow saw for cutting through branches and fallen trees of up to 5 inches in diameter. Gloves are recommended for this task, for dragging branches out of the trail, and to prevent blisters from loppers or pruners.
In general, the brusher’s task is to clear the trail in a 3-4 ft wide corridor (about the width of a door-frame), so that hikers won’t brush against branches as they walk. In some areas, small brush or grasses may be so thick that a powered hedgetrimmer or weed-whacker might be a better tool for clearing the trail. In these cases, the brusher would mark the location on a map, tie flagging up alongside that section of the trail, and notify the stewardship coordinator.
When a larger downed tree or branch is encountered, the brusher should note the location on their trail map and notify the stewardship coordinator so that chainsawing can be planned.
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Ever wanted to be a trailblazer? Blazes are the 2”x6” paint markings on trees along a trail that indicate the trail’s direction. Many of PLT’s trails are in need of better blazing, whether the problem is that the blazes are confusing, the wrong color, or just so faded that the trail is becoming difficult to follow.
There is an art to good blazing that is not difficult to learn, and although it is detail-oriented work, blazing doesn’t require heavy lifting or great physical ability. Typical blazing months are April-October, and only during dry weather. Equipment for each blazer, provided by PLT, may include these items:
- can of blazing paint
- a “paint pot” with a handle
- wire brush
- paint scraper
- 2×6” blaze template
- a foam brush
- roll of flagging and a sharpie marker
- a rag for clean-up
A trail blazer should also carry a pair of loppers or a folding hand saw, for clearing the line of sight to a blaze where needed. Good sized pockets or a bucket for toting supplies can be handy.
PLT would love to gather a team of trail blazers for a training event this spring, where volunteers can learn PLT’s blazing methods, get familiar with some of the trails that need reblazing, and help create a plan for improvements. Join the trailblazer’s group early!
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Trail Sign Construction
One of the unique volunteering opportunities that PLT has to offer is helping with trail sign construction. To preserve the rustic look of the trails under PLT’s maintenance, we create our own wooden signs to indicate trail names. Bob and Chris Cummings are the leaders for this task, but they need help to produce these beautiful painted signs. If you have woodworking experience or have access to woodworking tools (especially a router), we would love for you to get involved! This is work that could be done any time of year, so go right ahead and contact the stewardship coordinator.
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Trail Sign Installation
Once we have a number of signs to put up at a preserve, it helps to have a volunteer who can take a long walk with the coordinator or a steward that knows the trail, helping to carry signs and tools and get a lot of installation done in one day. These might be trail name signs, directional arrows, or both. All this task requires is a backpack for hauling signs and materials and the willingness to carry a bit of the weight on a walk of (up to) a few miles. PLT would provide the signs, nails, screws, tools, and flagging needed for the task. This is often a great opportunity to learn more about a preserve, view wildlife and enjoy the trails with someone that knows them well.
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Most of PLT’s preserves do not currently have boundary markings indicating the land’s owner. In the next several years, we would like to correct this by posting medallions (small aluminum signs) along our boundaries, about one every 50 ft. This task will require off-trail walking, and each boundary-marking volunteer would need to be trained in how to use a GPS unit and compass, and the precise methods that we will use to mark our boundaries. Equipment includes aluminum signs, nails, a hammer, GPS unit, map, compass, and flagging. This is slow and detail-oriented work, usually scheduled for warmer months, but sometimes done in winter if the preserve’s boundary is marshy. This is a great task for a solo volunteer or a team of two.
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Bog Bridge and Stepping-stone Construction
This is one of the heavier tasks needed at the PLT preserves, and is usually planned for when we can get a number of volunteers together to help.
Wooden bog bridges or stepping stones are needed for areas of the trail that are wet or muddy, to keep the trail from eroding, and to make the hiking experience better for our preserve visitors (i.e. no wet, muddy shoes). Some of the PLT trails need a lot of these structures, and we need people willing to lift and carry the materials to the problem spots in the trail.
Volunteers for bog bridge construction help to lift and carry the wooden beams into the preserve, which can sometimes be a long walk. Carrying might be taken in shifts to make the process easier. Wherever possible, we would use ATVs or carts to bring in materials, but some amount of carrying is usually involved. Once the wood materials are on site, we carry in tools and materials, usually including a shovel and mattock for leveling ground, a battery-operated drill, metal spikes, and a 4-lb sledgehammer.
After arranging and leveling the beams, they are drilled and then nailed together with the spikes, and a stable, dry walking surface is in place!
Less often, PLT might decide to install stepping stones at a wet location. This is best for areas where the wet spot is always shallow and there are suitable stones nearby. This technique may be used more often for locations that are remote from the trailhead. For equipment, volunteers would carry in shovels, mattocks, a rake and a long prying bar for levering stones out of the ground. A sheet of plywood and rope, or perhaps a folded tarp might be used to slide rocks closer to their needed positions. As it might sound, this is heavy physical work, but safety is always encouraged and the work is done as carefully as possible. Volunteers for any rock construction are encouraged to wear steel-toe boots and tough gloves.
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Chainsawing (prior experience required)
Chainsawing is a dangerous but essential part of trail management. While PLT encourages chainsaw-trained volunteers to offer their time, no chainsaw operator should conduct trail maintenance if they: 1) are inexperienced with chainsawing, 2) do not have the proper safety equipment, or 3) feel their experience, strength, or equipment is insufficient for dealing with a particular sawing task. Sometimes a tree is too large, the saw is too dull, or the weather conditions are too difficult. Leaving a tree or branch in place across the trail is ALWAYS preferable to attempting a removal under high-risk circumstances.
Volunteers should have their own saw in good repair and their own safety equipment – at a minimum, steel-toe boots, chaps, eye and hearing protection. Hard hats and gloves are recommended. Volunteers are strongly recommended to have at least TWO people present during any chainsaw operation, and to carry both a well-equipped medical kit and a cell phone for emergencies.
All volunteer work on PLT preserves is undertaken at the volunteer’s own risk. If you feel you would be able to contribute your time and resources to our chainsaw work needs, please contact the Stewardship Coordinator. We would like to have a “call list” of people that may be able to help with chainsaw tasks.
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Level 1 Stewards: Trail Inspectors and Preserve Inspectors
Knowledge is half the battle in trail stewardship. When a trail doesn’t have a specific person assigned to keep an eye out, sometimes problems such as trees down, wet spots, or illegal uses don’t get reported to PLT. Twice or more each year, especially in the spring and early fall, we need people to walk every trail and report the conditions that need attention. Ideally, this means using a GPS unit to mark locations, but even a detailed map with hand-drawn notes would be very helpful. These reports would be given to the Stewardship Coordinator, who can arrange for enough volunteers to address the needed work.
If you enjoy walking our trails anyway, you’d make a great trail inspector! When you sign up to inspect trails, we would assign you to a specific preserve or part of the preserve, and you report back on what you see out there. If you’re willing to use a GPS unit or have one of your own, a quick training in what to record is all you would need. Otherwise, we can give you a detailed map and a clipboard.
Preserve inspectors might go one step further, if they are comfortable with a GPS unit. At least once per year, we like to have someone take a look at the boundaries of the preserve, making sure that our borders are not being affected by neighboring activities. This usually involves walking off-trail, so is better for those that are sure-footed, and with a GPS unit in hand, you can make sure you don’t stray onto our neighbor’s property.
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Level 2 Stewards: Adopt-a-Preserve/Adopt-a-Trail
Do you visit one particular PLT preserve often through the year? If so, you’re probably a great candidate for a Preserve Steward. We have a need for folks that are willing to keep an eye on a preserve through the year and conduct basic trail maintenance like brushing and blazing. You don’t need any particular experience to start being a Steward, but you do need a commitment to walking a particular trail or preserve at least four times a year, and the willingness to carry and use brushing tools. Preserve Stewards would be invited to the bi-monthly meetings of the Stewardship Committee, where they can report on the condition of the preserve and bring up any bigger problems that need attention. Preserve Stewards would be in close communication with the Stewardship Coordinator. This is an excellent way to make your hobby (walking trails!) into a hugely helpful task that will keep your favorite preserve looking great.
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Conservation Easement Monitors
PLT holds Conservation Easements on some properties that they do not directly own. An easement is a legal agreement that places a restriction on what the landowner can do with that property in the future, in return for a lowered tax rate. A typical conservation easement such as PLT holds might state that the landowner cannot build new roads or structures on the property, or that they can only harvest a certain quantity of trees for firewood. These easements go a long way toward protecting land from development, and it is PLT’s responsibility, along with the landowner, to make sure the terms of the easement agreement are followed.
For this purpose, PLT carefully inspects each easement property once per year. This is a visit that might take one to four hours, depending on the size of the property. Since easement monitoring involves legal accountability, PLT has specific forms and procedures to make sure we are monitoring properly. This is one of the most complex volunteering opportunities we have, but we provide thorough training and support for this essential task.
PLT is looking for people to attend an easement monitoring training event this spring. If you are interested, please get in touch!
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PLT trails are a great community resource, and we periodically hold walks at our preserves to highlight the beauty and availability of these public spaces. Sometimes, attendees have never been to the preserve, and sometimes they have great stories to share about things they have seen along the trails or the long history of the area. If you’ve attended any of PLT’s walks in the past, you’ll know that these events are a great chance to socialize with people who are interested in outdoor exercise, great scenery, and wildlife watching.
PLT board members often lead walks, but it is a great task for any volunteer interested in sharing their knowledge of the preserve! If you are interested in leading a walk, contact PLT to arrange dates, the distance and terrain the walk will cover, and if you plan to share any particular information, like tree identification, birding, or history. PLT can help by advertising the walk in the newsletter and on their website, and by providing information about the preserve.
For more information, visit the Guided Walks page, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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PLT is looking for office help, too! Do you love to research, write, or work on the computer? Do you have skills in Microsoft Office programs, GIS, photoshop, or website management? Do you think you’d be great at organizing files? Let us know what you like to do, and we can see if there is a good fit!
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