By Charlotte Rutherfurd and Tina McGill, AmeriCorps members of the Palisades Trail Crew
Mark Popadak of Union, NJ, has amassed over 439 hours of volunteer service since May of this year. On an average day, he’s working alongside his brother Mike Popadak, an AmeriCorps member of the Palisades Trail Crew in Sterling Forest State Park, building trail rain or shine.
We thought we’d ask Mark what motivates him to volunteer with the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference.
How did you decide to join the Trail Conference?
“Since I was out of work at the time, I took the opportunity to volunteer with the AmeriCorps trail-building program at the Trail Conference alongside my brother.”
Are you enjoying working with your brother?
“We do everything together outdoors: hiking, canoeing, and backpacking. We have our moments, we always do. But I think we make a pretty good team. We’ve been best friends since we were born.”
What kind of trail work do you enjoy most?
“I like making trails and seeing the end result. It’s great to work with friends, learn all that I can, and have lots of fun working in the mountains. At the end of the day, I like looking back and saying, ‘That was a good day.’
“We’re trying to build trails for generations to come. You can walk down our trail and see what we did. How many times have you walked down a trail and said to yourself, ‘How interesting that [it] goes this way.’ That’s because someone [purposefully] routed it there. The stone work we’re doing is built to last, too. … Those heavy stones that we moved are going to always be there. To me, the satisfaction comes when the work is done. I like to walk through our work at the end of the day and say, ‘Check this out!'”
While volunteering, Mark often stays over at the Welch Trail Education Center in Harriman State Park. Lodging is available upon request for anyone actively volunteering with a Trail Conference crew during the trail season (May through Oct. 12). Amenities include 10 beds, on-site camping, showers, and a full kitchen. Click here for more information on joining the Palisades Trail Crew on a work trip or for a workshop and to check out their schedule.