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Rovings: Sharing the Craft

Leadership Symposium - Philadelphia, PA

In addition to completing lasting trail improvement projects, the Jolly Rovers have a longstanding practice of sharing the craft of trail work, and 2019 has been no exception. In February, before the ground was thawed, led by executive director Chris Ingui with the support of crew leaders Artie Hidalgo and David Chase, they travelled to Philadelphia to conduct a one-day leadership symposium for the Friends of Wissahickon. Participants included volunteers and staff of Wissahickon Valley Park – 35 in total. Based on collective experiences and stories, a series of strategic discussions were held to explore the regions needs and its volunteer development with the Friends, now in their 95th year. This was the first workshop of its kind, and it was a huge success. Dave Dannenberg, Crew Leader of the Friends of Wissahickon, reflected:

“Your candid and humble explanations about how your approach has evolved, complete with anecdotes, made your key points particularly compelling. It is SO important to recognize the emotional component of volunteering to do the kind of work we all do. This was evident from the beginning when you noticed that missing among all the reasons we volunteer was the word “fun”. Fun is why we do it, assuming that we have a broad enough definition of the word.”

A New Rock Crew

In May of this year, Jolly Rovers returned for their fourth year to the ‘Cradle of Forestry’ in North Carolina to teach a Rock Splitting and Shaping class at the Wilderness Skills Institute (WSI), led again by crew leader Artie Hidalgo and first-time instructor Bob Brunner. This was a 5-day class which involved splitting huge rocks into usable steps, then shaping them to fit into a planned design. Many participants had never rigged or shaped stone before. By the end of the week, many stones were moved, and big smiles emerged.

One participant, Tom Lamb, came away from this class wanting to put these skills to use in Georgia on the Appalachian Trail (AT). Over the summer, Tom secured financial assistance from the USFS as well as a Georgia AT ‘tag grant’ for $1,500 for a basic set of rock tools – and with that, a Rock Crew was born. Tom explains the need for a specialized crew:

“The idea of the Georgia Appalachian Trail Rock Crew is that, in the past, we have used rocks for trail construction as we find them. Many are not really suitable, but we use them anyway. We tend not to use large stones as they are too heavy, and we certainly have not been shaping the ones that we do use. With the newly acquired skills from the WSI workshop, the core of our Rock Crew can now provide a professional quality to our stonework. We can harvest, shape, and build more sustainable steps, staircases, and crib walls along the AT in Georgia without having to wait years in advance for a Konnarock Crew.”

Onward and Upward

Artie and Bob traveled south once more in October to teach the new Georgia AT Rock Crew for two days, and they taught two additional workshops along the way. The Georgia AT Rock Crew was working in the Lake Winfield Scott Recreation Area, on the Jarrard Gap Trail. Despite heavy rains and strong winds, 9 volunteers on the newly formed crew enthusiastically learned basic tool use, how to set up drag lines, how to set stones, and cribbing and paving techniques.

From Georgia, Artie and Bob traveled to Pilot Mountain State Park in North Carolina to teach a three-day training to 11 state parks staff in Three Bear Gully. Finally, they roved on to Craggy Gardens on the Blue Ridge Parkway to teach 12 Carolina Mountain Club volunteers working on the Mountain to Sea Trail. How were these workshops received? Well, in the words of one workshop participant, “the Jolly Rovers set a great example of how to engage volunteers so work is enjoyable and they return.” That’s what we hope for – sharing the craft, and keeping it fun.

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