By Patrick J. Dalton, Trail Conference Supervisor of Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve in Staten Island
In May 2014, I renewed my Trail Conference membership and rekindled my dormant passion for hiking and outdoors solitude. It had been three months since my second lower-back surgery, and my reasoning at the time was to get involved with the organization to keep myself active. But I didn’t imagine just how far that first step would actually lead.
I’d registered for a few Trail University workshops, starting from the very beginning with Trail Maintenance 101, and would soon be assigned a maintenance sector on the Long Path in Harriman State Park. But it was another Trail U course that proved to be more critical for me. On June 25, I attended the Intro to Map & Compass/Land Navigation workshop at Tent & Trails in Manhattan, where I first met Hank Osborn, class instructor and the Trail Conference’s East Hudson Program Coordinator. At the conclusion of the workshop, during a Conference-related conversation, Hank asked where I lived. When I replied, “Staten Island,” he asked, “Would you be interested in becoming a supervisor?” Without hesitation, I said, “Yes!”
Supervisor? How does that happen? Guidance, of course. Hank introduced me to Metro Chair Dawson Smith, who jointly advised me to build a Conference resume that included a number of specific Trail U workshops—and off I went. From learning about stone cribwall and stair construction at Bear Mountain to tread and drainage at Sterling Forest to leadership in Haines Falls, I attended over 10 TC workshops between June and mid-September. I even conducted two TM-101 workshops myself in Staten Island.
Five months later, as supervisor at the newly adopted Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve in Staten Island, I’ll never view a trail the same way ever again. It’s not just about loppers and folding saws—it’s forging and maintaining relationships with volunteers, parks staff, and other volunteer organizations; its flexibility that doesn’t exist on a calendar; it’s applying skills I didn’t possess just seasons ago.
When I departed the compass workshop that evening in late June, I was shown a path on the map that wasn’t there hours earlier—and how to traverse it as well.