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The Future of Trails: Volunteers

By Taylor Goodrich, Communication and Media Specialist, American Trails


Outdoor recreation is an $887 billion industry that is, in many ways, built on the backs of volunteers.

The logic of this is simple: almost all outdoor recreation activities involve trails in some capacity, and trails are possible because of an army of volunteers.

These dedicated individuals work enthusiastically alongside land managers and trail-building professionals, to build and maintain pathways of all kinds. It is no wonder, given these facts, that we are increasingly seeing innovative volunteer-based programs all over the country, investing in creating a well- trained volunteer force for trails and outdoor spaces.

One such organization is the Jolly Rovers Trail Crew, based in New York....

45 Rovers Volunteers, 8,000 hours of service at a value of $200,000

September 30, 2014

Building Sustainable Trails at Vermont

Focusing our craft and train the next generation of trail stewards

Jolly Rovers came to Vermont to help build and teach how to build sustainable trails in tricky locations. In a collaboration between the USFS, Vermont Mountain Bike Association(VMBA), the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps(VYCC), and the Middlebury Bike Club. Some major steps were taken to further the working relationships between these groups

The Rainbow Falls Staircase Minnewaska State Park, NY

Completed with several stone culverts and stone paved swales, we wrapped up our work on the Rainbow Falls and Shawangunk Ridge Trail! This project tested the crews skills in water management. The descent to the Falls was once a muddy hillside with a constant seep from the watershed above. It is now sustainable, dry and revegetating beautifully.

60 stone steps, 30 Rovers Volunteers, 15 days

April 01, 2012

Appalachian Trail, Greenwood Lake, NY

Moving 300-pound blocks of stone....

During the winter of 2012, volunteers of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference approached the Jolly Rovers to visit Appalachian Trail at Fitzgerald Falls in Greenwood Lake, NY. After a series of scouting trips the Rovers eagerly adopted the project; it’s most ambitious undertaking since the crew had launched a year earlier in 2011.

60 stone steps, 25 Rovers Volunteers, 1100 hours

Improving trail access at Mohonk Preserve

The Jolly Rovers Trail Crew partnered with the Mohonk Preserve and its volunteers to improve trail access from the preserve’s Visitor Center and parking area to its internationally renowned climbing cliffs, the Trapps.

Mohonk Preserve - New York

A Jolly Rovers team led by co-founder, Artie Hidalgo-Espinosa, trained and work with Mohonk Preserve’s staff and volunteered over 20-25 days to replace the current steps with new steps that would meet higher standards to be more durable over the long term. MP’s volunteer “Trail keepers” regularly develop climber ascent trails, but can only shape stone rather than cutting it. The training they receive from the Jolly Rovers will give them experience with stone cutting theory and practice, the mathematical principles of stone step layout and design, techniques for moving large stones, and setting gargoyles. Following the project, MP staff and volunteer will use this training to develop and improve ascent trails throughout the Preserve for the benefit of many thousands of hikers and climbers annually.

20-25 Days

October 01, 2016

Stony Kill Falls – Minnewaska State Park Preserve

The Jolly Rovers Trail Crew built the 35 step stone staircase leading to the stone paved viewing platform, overlooking the falls.

Chris Ingui, Executive Director and Founding Member of The Jolly Rovers states: “To accomplish this, our volunteers donated 3,000 work hours over the course of 30 days through the Fall of 2016 through the Fall of 2017. The stone was all native Shawangunk conglomerate and was split and shaped onsite and flown into place via overhead zip lines that we rigged into the surrounding trees.”

35 Steps, 3000 hours, 1.7 Miles

May 08, 2019

A volunteer nonprofit organization

The Jolly Rovers Trail Crew is a volunteer nonprofit organization that provides technical trail maintenance and construction, particularly stonework, to public parks and forests throughout the eastern United States. They have worked extensively in PIPC parks including Minnewaska State Park Preserve.

The Jolly Rovers recently worked along the Ellenville Ice Caves Trail in Sam's Point to rehabilitate a large stone staircase. In partnership with the Minnewaska State Park Preserve, the Jolly Rovers provided safe and visually inspiring access through a difficult portion of their historic ice caves. This newly rehabilitated staircase will not only improve sustainable access but the overall experience for the ten's of thousands of visitors that frequent the site annually. 

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