My Trail to Becoming a Volunteer Supervisor

By Patrick J. Dalton, Trail Conference Supervisor of Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve in Staten Island

Patrick J. Dalton Trail Conference Supervisor

Patrick J. Dalton didn’t hesitate when asked if he was interested in becoming a Trail Conference supervisor. (Photo contributed by Patrick J. Dalton)

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.

If you’re interested in becoming a trail supervisor or would like information on any of our other on-trail volunteer opportunities, check out our openings.

About Trail Walker

Since 1920, the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference has partnered with parks to create, protect, and promote a network of more than 2,100 miles of public trails in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan region. The Trail Conference organizes volunteer service projects that keep these trails open, safe, and enjoyable for the public. We publish maps and books that guide public use of these trails. The Trail Conference is a volunteer-driven nonprofit organization with a membership of 10,000 individuals and 100 clubs with a combined membership of 100,000 active, outdoor-loving people.
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