Get to Know Our Crew Leaders

July 15, 2019
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New York-New Jersey Trail Conference

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Get to Know Our Crew Leaders

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There are as many different ways to run a trail crew as there are people to lead them. While you may recognize our crews from their deeds in past issues of Trail Walker—and perhaps you’ve even taken the leap to join them in the field—we thought it was high time that you get a glimpse at what motivates these incredible people. From volunteers who specialize in heavy-duty bridge construction to those who undertake the equally important task of clearing and blazing neglected trails, we salute our crew leaders. And, who knows—you may even find you have a lot in common with some of them!

David + Monica Day: West Jersey Crew

How often does your crew meet in the work season, and what sort of work do you do?
We work most Saturdays between mid-April and the end of June (spring), and between Labor Day and mid-November (fall). We do any type of trail construction: clearing new trail; installing stone steps and retaining walls; adding trail drainage (water bars); building or repairing bridges; installing or upgrading puncheon (bog bridges); repairing boardwalks.

What inspired you to become a crew leader?
We started on a trail construction crew in New York State because we wanted to give back. In 2000, we were asked to lead a special one-time trail construction project in western New Jersey (in Worthington State Forest). When it was completed we decided that leading a trail crew was something that we were good at and enjoyed, so we volunteered to continue trail crew leadership beyond the one-time project, thus becoming the West Jersey Crew.

What is your favorite part about being a crew leader?
David: The technical challenge of planning and then efficiently carrying out each work trip.
Monica: The shared sense of accomplishment at the end of a work day from seeing the results of our collective work.

What is your best crew leader memory?
David: Planning and that hoisted three 36-foot bridge sections (that had washed away in a flood) back onto their abutments and into a complete bridge.
Monica: The magic of creating a new trail.

Crew Leader Monica Day, top, and members of the crew provide incredible care to the trails of northwestern New Jersey.

David DeShazer: Lenape Trail Crew

How often does your crew meet in the work season, and what sort of work do you do?
We meet monthly with additional occasional ad hoc meetings for planning work. Typically we do basic trail maintenance, cleaning up storm damage, and occasional heavier projects like construction of bridges.

What inspired you to become a crew leader?
My family is relatively new to New Jersey, but I have loved the outdoors most of my life. I was looking for ways to contribute and there was a need for a trail supervisor and crew chief right in my backyard on the trails I was already exploring with my daughters.

What is your favorite part about being a crew leader?
Easily the time outdoors with the crew, learning from members, spending time with my daughters and hiking back through areas in the days and weeks after a trail crew day seeing the difference we made.

What is your best crew leader memory?
It wasn’t a particularly significant day or a big project, but just a fun day on a section not as well-traveled or marked as others. It was only my second time through that area. It was a nice relaxed group that had fun being a little silly building stone cairns, catching up, and joking.

The Lenape Trail Crew cares for this unique urban-suburban trail in New Jersey.

Geof Connor: Westchester East Trail Crew

How often does your crew meet in the work season, and what sort of work do you do?
We meet all year, every Friday morning, usually at Ward Pound Ridge but also at Mountain Lakes Park–and occasionally at other parks in western Westchester. We perform general maintenance on all trails (36 miles in Ward Pound Ridge), including waterbars/diverters, bog bridging construction, trail detours, and blazing.

What inspired you to become a crew leader?
I became crew leader when the last leader resigned. I signed up because I love the two parks–I walk my dog there every day and therefore am able to identify work to be done. Also it keeps me fit and lets me meet likeminded people who have become friends.

What is your favorite part about being a crew leader?
I enjoy being part of the team as much as being leader. As leader I do get to interact with park staff in the upkeep of trails.

What is your best crew leader memory?
Too many funny moments to single one out. It is always special when passing hikers thank us for the work we do. The completion of the Rocks Trail was perhaps the most satisfying project we did. Working with school and company groups, while sometimes challenging, is also satisfying.

The Westchester East Trail Crew is active year-round building and maintaining trails.

Chris Reyling: Long Distance Trails Crew

How often does your crew meet in the work season, and what sort of work do you do?
The Long Distance Trails Crew (LDTC) has a schedule of three-day work trips every other weekend from the end of March through the beginning of December. Our projects focus on rehabilitating the problem areas of the long-distance trails in the West Hudson region. The work is usually technical in nature: stone steps and cribbing; wooden bridges and puncheon; water routing; and building comfortable, sustainable trail.

What inspired you to become a crew leader?
I started as the crew chief of the newly formed LDTC when the first relocation of the A.T. on the east side of West Mountain was approved.

What is your favorite part about being a crew leader?
My favorite part is leading a group of very talented individuals in building a sustainable and attractive trail.

What is your best crew leader memory?
My best memories were from our four, week-long camping trips helping to build the Long Path (Phoenicia-East Branch Trail); basically summer camp for trail crews! We are very proud of the trail structures we created, one of which has been named and is shown on the Catskill trail maps.

The LDTC’s focus is long-distance trails.

Mary Dodds: Trail Tramps Crew

How often does your crew meet in the work season, and what sort of work do you do?
The crew works 3 hours every Wednesday, roughly 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., throughout the year. We do routine maintenance, trail checks and assessment, trail tread, rock crib walls and steps, water bars, clearance of heavy brush and invasives using electric hedge trimmers, puncheon, bridge construction, and demolition.

What inspired you to become a crew leader?
When I retired, I started to work on the Ward Pound Ridge crew (now known as the Westchester East Trail Crew). Channeling Mr. Spock, it seemed like the only logical way to get the job done, so I started a crew on “my” side of the county.

What is your favorite part about being a crew leader?
Learning on the job: about how to place, build, and repair trails; about the plants, animals, and rocks which share and surround them; and about the weather that affects them.

What is your best crew leader memory?
Memories of the crew sharing lunch and feeling greatly satisfied with a just completed project. Too many times to count.

The Trail Tramps care for trails and parklands in Westchester County.

If you want a hands-on look at what it takes to be a crew leader, get a glimpse at our new Eyes of a Trail Builder workshops.

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