When someone handles a sledgehammer, you can see almost immediately if it’s their first time. If it is, legs buckle, wrists seem to flex at angles they shouldn’t, and nobody knows what in the world to do with their feet. Helping volunteers get their bodies in order while handling unfamiliar tools is one of the goals of our Tool Use and Safety course.
At a spring workshop in Long Pond Ironworks State Park, many of the volunteers exhibiting these symptoms weren’t just students of Trail University – they were also students at Ramapo College. And, by the time you read this, several of these students will be on their way to becoming teachers on the trails as they look to assist with projects in the coming months.
With Ramapo College soon to be an across-the-street neighbor of the Trail Conference at Darlington, and with our goal to attract more young people to our volunteer ranks, it seems natural to target the college for volunteer development. Our first semester working with the campus community has been very promising.
Several non-college organizations that operate on campus, such as MEVO (Mahwah Environmental Volunteers Organization) and the Volunteer Center of Bergen County, helped connect us to college administrators and faculty members.
Ramapo College professors, especially in the environmental departments, were receptive to our request to give a presentation about the Trail Conference in their classes. Interested students signed up to receive emails about volunteer opportunities, training sessions, and work trips.
Our North Jersey Trails Chair identified a trail at Long Pond Ironworks State Park in need of some drastic work. We planned a series of Trail U courses to teach the basics needed to build a new trail from the ground-up: Trail Layout and Design, Tool Use and Safety, and Introduction to Trail Maintenance. These were all open to the public through our website, but most of the participants were Ramapo students.
With the park superintendent’s approval, the heavily eroded trail was re-aligned over the course of the three workshops. At this time, students have contributed almost 100 hours to this project from start to finish. Some, looking for more work, have crossed the border to join crews in New York State.
The end result of our first semester with Ramapo College has been a perfect model of collaboration, and we’re looking forward to what the future brings. We have some exciting projects lined up in the Ramapo Valley Reservation this summer, so keep an eye on our Trail U page online to get involved, whether you’re a student or not!
If you want to learn more about how to get involved on New Jersey trails, email Peter Dolan at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re a member of the Ramapo College community, find other trail-lovers on campus at www.facebook.com/groups/RamapoTrailCrew.