Trail Blazers

Volunteers hard at work keeping the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail clear. Photo by Al Lisin

Volunteers hard at work keeping the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail clear. Photo by Al Lisin

Celebrating the Work of Volunteer Trail Crews

We need trails so we can enjoy the wonders of the forests, but it can be easy to take them for granted. It’s usually not until a downed tree blocks our way or eroded paths threaten our footing that we remember the importance of well-maintained trails. Unfortunately there are no magical forest elves who remove the branches and fix the erosion. It takes hard-working park staff and dedicated volunteer trail crews countless hours and ongoing vigilance to keep our trails open and safe.

Sempervirens Fund has a long history of involvement with trail creation and maintenance. In 1969, our director Tony Look worked with California State Parks and Scout Leader Bob Kirsch to found the Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Association (SCMTA), making it possible for us to build the world-class Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail that same year. Three volunteer trail crews formed under SCMTA to maintain a vast network of trails throughout Castle Rock and Big Basin Redwoods State Parks. Sempervirens Fund helps these hard-working crews by replacing worn out tools.

“The trails make it possible to see the glories of the parks. Without trails, you wouldn’t know where to go or have a practical way to get there.” – Stuart Langdoc, Vice President, Portola and Castle Rock Foundation. Stuart receives trail patrol reports from volunteers and feeds any maintenance issues to the SCMTA trail crews.

The Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail Crew maintains 16 miles of trail extending from Castle Rock along Highway 236 and into Big Basin. Trail crew leader Al Lisin has been volunteering since 1991. Al and his crew logged 680 volunteer hours this past year. “It’s good exercise. I get out in the fresh air, and it’s a nice change of pace,” says Al. “Most gratifying is cleaning up debris after a big windstorm. There’s great satisfaction in opening the trail up.” Working in tandem with Al, volunteer Kevin McDevitt leads the Castle Rock Trail Crew, which cares for all trails in the park other than Skyline-to-the-Sea.

As Sempervirens Fund prepares to create a new entrance for our beloved Castle Rock State Park, we’ll keep you apprised of exciting opportunities to help build new trail connections into the park. Stay tuned!

Two young trail blazers enjoying Castle Rock. Photo by Shelley Ratay

Two young trail blazers enjoying Castle Rock. Photo by Shelley Ratay

Deeper into the redwoods, the Big Basin Volunteer Trail Crew also operates under the SCMTA umbrella, maintaining more than 80 miles of trails throughout the park with support from the Mountain Parks Foundation. Last year 33 people devoted 852 hours of work – a real labor of love. And they are always looking for more volunteers. Crew leader Jeff Bleam says that along with the thrill of opening trails “what I like is seeing parts of the park that most people don’t see, like Chalk Mountain.”

Ready to lend a hand to these crews? Regular workdays take place each month. Visit our Volunteer Opportunities web page to find schedules and other ways to help the Great Park.

Are you inspired now? Please make a gift to Sempervirens Fund today.

This article was originally published in Sempervirens Fund’s Mountain Echo, Spring 2015 newsletter (PDF). Please visit our Publications page for additional newsletters and more. Or give now and receive our newsletters in your mailbox.