Washington Trails Association: From Hiking Journal to Trail Heroes

If you hike or ride a bike or horse on the many miles of trails in the Inland Northwest, then you are the perfect candidate for a Washington Trails Association volunteer trail project. Trail building and maintenance is fun and rewarding, and most volunteers leave with a new appreciation for the effort that goes into the creation of the miles of trails available on our local public lands.

Look at the new rock steps along the Knothead Trail in Riverside State Park and realize that multiple days of volunteer effort went into their exact placement. Hike to the top of the East Ridge Trail at Iller Creek and keep in mind that some of the new drain dips took an entire day to be dug correctly, often by volunteers who had never heard the term “drain dip” before they began their day of volunteer service.

WTA: The Trail Angels of Washington State

Washington Trails Association began in 1966 as a small grassroots magazine published by guidebook author Louise Marshall on an old printing press she kept in her barn. As the nonprofit grew, its members and volunteers noticed that funding for trail maintenance was decreasing while interest in outdoor recreation was growing. To address the gap, WTA began a small volunteer trail work program in 1993 that is now the largest of its kind in the country.

The organization continues to provide information to hikers and other user groups, both through its magazine, which is mailed to members, and through its website, a free resource available to everyone (wta.org). Try the online hiking guide to plan your next hike, or look though the trip reports to check trail conditions.

WTA also works to inspire the next generation of hikers through its “Families Go Hiking” newsletters, youth volunteer work parties, and educator resources and grants. It is a strong voice of advocacy in the state, speaking out on behalf of hikers on issues like trail funding and access. WTA has roughly 3,000 volunteers who come out for trail maintenance work on public lands each year, and together they contribute over 110,000 hours of volunteer work. Last year WTA volunteers worked on 190 trails across the state.

Over the coming months, WTA volunteer crews will be working locally to build the third footbridge over Burping Brook and maintain trails in Mount Spokane State Park, logging out and brushing trails in the Colville National Forest and working to improve trail drainage at Iller Creek Conservation Area. Projects WTA has already completed this year include trail work in the Dishman Hills Natural Area, Liberty Lake County Park, and Riverside State Park. Looking ahead to this fall and beyond, they have new trail construction planned at Fishtrap Lake as well as trail reroutes in their sites for the Antoine Peak Conservation Area.

A typical WTA work party involves a full day of playing in the dirt, where the three main rules are be safe, have fun, and get some good work done. For all projects, WTA completes work to the standards set by the managing agency and collaborates with local colleges, activity clubs, and even businesses to find volunteers willing to lend a hand. All of the tools are provided, along with the necessary training.

For anyone who enjoys utilizing local trails for recreation, consider giving a day back. Projects range from one-day outings to week-long volunteer vacations. Trail funding has not improved since the beginnings of WTA’s trail maintenance program in 1993, but fortunately volunteers have shown a willingness to step forward and lend a hand.

For more information regarding Washington Trails Association’s volunteer work parties, contact WTA’s Eastern Washington Regional Coordinator Holly Weiler (that’s me) at hweiler@wta.org. //

Even when you're hard at work, there's always time for a laugh on a work party. Photo: Jane Baker, Washington Trails Association
Even when you’re hard at work, there’s always time for a laugh on a work party. Photo: Jane Baker, Washington Trails Association

Check out www.wta.org/volunteer/trail-work-parties for more info on the full summer schedule of trail projects, including these work parties in July:

Salmo Priest Wilderness (July 10-13)
This will be a four-day, three-night backpacking trip maintaining backcountry trails in northeast Washington’s only wilderness area.

Mount Spokane State Park (July 22)
Help work on trail tread and brush out overgrown trail in the Mt. Kit Carson area.

Salmo Priest Wilderness (July 31-Aug. 3)
Finish up work on the Shedroof Divide and Thunder Mountain areas of the Salmo Priest on this four day, three night backpacking trip work party.


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