Hit the Trail and Lend a Hand

April 1, 2006

It doesn’t take much to enjoy a well-built trail, but it takes a lot of elbow grease to actually build one. From the logistical nightmares of avoiding washouts, poison oak, and sensitive resources to the deceptively simple question of where a trail should lead, there is a lot to think about before the trail-blazing begins. To fully appreciate what goes into the design, construction, and maintenance of the trails we so often take for granted, try volunteering some time to get off the beaten path and build one instead.

California State Parks

The California State Parks VIP volunteer program has many opportunities in natural resource management, including trail construction and maintenance, native plant enhancement, exotic plant removal, habitat restoration, and beach cleanup. Volunteer projects include short- and long-term commitments and are available for individuals or groups. There is an application process to become a California State Parks volunteer. Call (916)653-9069 or email to obtain a volunteer packet, which includes the necessary application papers. For more information, go to

East Bay Regional Park District

The East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) relies on volunteers to maintain the roughly 1,000 miles of trails that meander through 95,000 acres of land in 65 parks. Projects include trail maintenance, pruning, and installing drainage structures, retaining walls, bridges, and causeways to keep the trails safe and accessible. These projects are funded in part by the Ivan Dickson Volunteer Trail Maintenance Fund, created in honor of Berkeley Hiking Club-member and EBRPD-regular Ivan Dickson. The EBRPD schedules volunteer trail maintenance projects throughout the year and encourages the participation of schools, church groups, scout groups, corporate partnerships, public agencies, and individuals looking for an outdoor volunteer experience. The following projects are scheduled for this year:

Saturday, April 22, 2006—Earth Day/California Trail Days at Las Trampas Regional Wilderness

Saturday, June 3, 2006—National Trails Day at Tilden Nature Area

July 15, 2006—Ivan Dickson Trail Project at Garin Regional Park

October 14, 2006—Ivan Dickson Trail Project at Briones to Mt. Diablo Regional Trail

To participate, you can register for specific projects by calling (510)544-2631 or email the district at three days prior to the event. Typical work-days last from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Donations of tools, supplies, and materials are also welcome. For more information, go to

Golden Gate National Recreation Area

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area’s (GGNRA) VIP Program offers one-time and extended volunteer opportunities at such sites as Muir Woods National Monument, Fort Point National Historic Site, and the Presidio of San Francisco, not to mention Alcatraz, Marin Headlands, Nike Missile Site, and Fort Mason. The GGNRA encompasses hundreds of miles of trail, so volunteers—all of whom undergo an orientation and training beforehand—are always needed. To learn more, contact the the Park Volunteer Coordinator at (415)561-4755 or For more information, go to

Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District

The Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District is always on the lookout for open space volunteers—especially “Preserve Partners,” who are in charge of trail maintenance, construction, and clean-up. Field projects are scheduled monthly, and the district provides the necessary tools and instruction. To learn more about becoming a Preserve Partner, email, or call (650)691-1200. For more information, go to

Santa Clara County Parks

Santa Clara County Parks (SCCP) manages 27 parks in the region, and the parks agency is always looking for trail crew lead volunteers who, after in-depth training in trail-building and maintenance, participate in trail projects, oversee adopt-a-trail groups, and lead Trail Day events. SCCP offers a Trail Day at Villa Montalvo on the fourth Sunday of each month, 9 a.m. to noon. Additional Trail Days are scheduled for the first Saturday of each month, 9 a.m. to 1 pm.

April 22, 2006—California Trails Day at Upper Stevens Creek

April 22, 2006—California Trails Day at Uvas Canyon

May 6, 2006—Trail Day at Santa Teresa

June 3, 2006—National Trail Day at Calero Park

July 8, 2006—Trail Day at Coyote Lake-Harvey Bear Ranch

August 5, 2006—Trail Day at Uvas Canyon

September 2, 2006—Trail Day at Penitencia Creek

October 7, 2006—Trail Day at Sanborn

SCCP also offers opportunities for you or your organization to adopt a trail (or a section of trail) to maintain, as well as personalized projects tailored to schools, church groups, scout groups, public agencies, and individuals. Contact the volunteer program coordinator at (408)355-2254 or For more information, go to

Marin County Open Space District

Marin County Open Space District oversees more than 33 preserves. Through the district’s Environmental Stewardship Program (ESP), volunteers can adopt trails and portions of the preserves for protection and restoration. On the second weekend of each month, rangers supervise volunteers doing trail work, clean-ups, and restoration. For more information, contact volunteer coordinator Greg Reza by phone at (415)499-3778 or by email at For more information, go to

Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation & Open Space District

The Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation & Open Space District’s open space volunteers are responsible for trail-building and other tasks. To participate, contact Community Affairs Officer Maureen Middlebrook at (707)565-7360. For more information, go to

About the Author

Matthew Bettelheim is a freelance writer and a wildlife biologist with URS Corporation.