Catskills Sees Surge in Trail Volunteers

February 02, 2021
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference


Catskills Sees Surge in Trail Volunteers
Catskill Lean-To Chair Snapper Petta maintaining a lean-to firepit. Photo by Rob Lambeth.


The Trail Conference has revitalized the volunteer trail maintenance and shelter caretaker program in the Catskills.

In 2018, the program was facing 63% of volunteer trail maintainers, shelter caretakers, and leadership positions as vacant. Recognizing this was not an acceptable standard, we made investments over the past year and a half by making the Catskills a priority for our Volunteer Engagement team, restructuring staff and volunteers, improving backend data and logistics, and strengthening partnerships.

Due to these efforts, the program is seeing one of the strongest seasons it’s had in years—even in the midst of a pandemic that resulted in a shortened season with limited permitted activities. Now only 4.1% of volunteer positions are vacant.

In 2020, 66 new volunteers were onboarded, meaning nearly all the trail sections and shelters we’re responsible for in the Catskills have dedicated, on-the-ground volunteers. Additionally, a third of the Catskills has new, strong leadership. Specifically:

  • Over the last 10 months, we have placed 52 new trail maintainers who have adopted 57 trail sections.
  • In January, we introduced our new volunteer shelter trail chair Snapper Petta (pictured above) who has since onboarded 12 new volunteer shelter caretakers and vastly improved reporting and communication about the conditions of the shelters.
  • Andy Garrison, who in 2019 stepped into the Local Trail Chair role focused on the Long Path, has been a force of nature helping to recruit and train four new trail supervisors who now oversee a combined 123 miles of trails and provide leadership for over 55 trail maintainers. Andy was also responsible for recruiting and onboarding many new trail maintainers.
  • The Catskill 3500 Club and Catskills Trail Conditions Facebook group have provided tremendous support with recruitment by promoting our volunteer opportunities to their base. Their efforts helped us recruit more than 20 of the 52 new trail maintainers and one of our new trail supervisors, and we have more interest from them in the queue.

In 2021, we plan to focus recruitment efforts on filling the remaining leadership positions.