Hosted by AmericanTrails.org
This is a paper to clarify issues for discussion at the June 12, 2009 NTTP meeting. The emphasis is on the topics previously identified as priorities: Trail Professionalization, Sustainability, and Educational Outreach.
By Stuart Macdonald, National Trails Training Partnership Program Manager for American Trails
One strength of the NTTP program has been providing a forum for in-depth discussion of trail-related training: needs, providers, delivery, problems, costs, and benefits. Another strength is the sheer range of opinions and experience from agencies, states, land managers, contractors, and organizations. As we hold meetings around the country, we bring many new people into the discussion and benefit from real-world viewpoints. And finally, NTTP is recognized as a focal point for training issues, so we are invited into projects such as the BLM "Needs Assessment for National Scenic and Historic Trails Training."
Our perennial problem is to build in some continuity from meeting to meeting. We need to capture the enthusiasm of this diverse and periodic discussion and continue to move the work forward. We've asked these questions at NTTP meetings over the years, but we're still looking for answers:
- How can we manage this continuity?
- How can we take very large goals and translate them into tasks that we can accomplish?
- How can we better define the work we actually want to accomplish?
- What kinds of communication and information sharing outside the meetings do we need?
- And finally, who would be willing to take on and be responsible for various tasks?
Previously, we have had ad hoc committees for two key issues: an "Outreach and Marketing Task Force" and a "Competency-Based Training Task Force." These groups were able to accomplish several key things, in particular: development and implementation of a Marketing Plan and created a brochure for NTTP and a comprehensive Trail Skills and Competencies Analysis. This provided good material for the BLM skills survey for NSHT, and also evolved into the Skills area of the NTTP website: http://www.AmericanTrails.org/nttp/skills/index.html.
At the November 2008 meeting in Little Rock, we were able to distill the enthusiasm and concern of the 45 attendees into Initiatives (current training and education resources) and Observations and Principles (main ideas and goals). The group then re-wrote and prioritized the following Issues for Action (specific tasks and efforts to pursue).
Attendees prioritized the issues that were grouped into four main categories, with three rated as High Priority (H):
H 2 - Working group: define sustainability - design, performance
22 - Develop model specs for sustainable trails
25 - Unskilled contractors are bidding on trails work
6 - Training in landscape context and habitat restoration
26 - Standards needed for more consistency at local level
H 4 - Imbed training in the culture of trail development
H 3, 5, 9, 20 - Every trail is an outdoor classroom
5 - Link place-based education to trail skills
9 - Expand "A Trail to Every Classroom" to many more trails
20 - Need to grow college level curriculum
10 - Reach out to health and children’s organizations and agencies
15 - Professionalization of trails ("trailology")
28 - Should there be CEUs at trail conferences?
H 16 - Developing advanced training modules to follow Trails 101
H 18 - Develop mentoring programs
H 19 - Offer and market training opportunities to other countries
M 1 - Working group: Skills accepted across agency and geographic lines
M 7 - Monitoring skills as a component of trail management
M 8 - Set up demo contract that includes training as integral goal
M 11 - Expand volunteer model of trail management (NSTs)
M 12 - Partnerships with business, help sustain volunteer efforts
THREE KEY TOPICS
Another accomplishment of those at the Little Rock meeting was to organize the priorities under three topics, which were discussed by separate groups:
1. Trail Professionalization
2. Sustainable Trails
3. Educational Outreach
These seem to be clear issues that should be important aspects of NTTP efforts to promote and nurture effective training. The next step after this promising start is to focus more attention from the partners on how to proceed. The main goals or problem statements edited from notes by each of these discussion groups are:
Goal: Seek ways to establish and develop publicly and privately supported standards and processes by which to increase the quality, quantity, and sustainability of trail skills, management, and products.
Trail Professionalization Committee Needs from the NTTP
- Advocate the critical need to professionalize all aspects of the trail industry.
- Serve as a hub/clearing house of info and training opportunities.
- Advocate and advertise standardized trail terminology, classification, assessment, maintenance and construction standards. (Work with Interagency Trail Council)
- Advocate the standardization of certification programs from public, private and inter-agency trail managers and workers. (Serve as the certification hub?)
- Advocate the need for an interagency, public/private partnership to work toward trail standardization and professionalization.
- Advocate the need for a national trail coordinator to address concerns and issues facing trails within federal, state, and local land managing units in addition to the private industry.
To achieve progress toward these goals, there are two key questions to answer:
1. What does a mature, professional trail worker, manager, organization, and contractor look and act like?
2. What are the areas to identify and methods of measuring the differences between a professional versus an unprofessional trail worker, manager, organization, and contractor?
1. What are your greatest needs?
- Common term/Concepts on Sustainability for trails (esp. in three aspects as follows: technical, social, and management/agency).
- Building capacity for all aspects of Sustainability.
- Develop strategy to promote Sustainability.
2. What do you need from NTTP and American Trails?
- Host workshops.
- Conduct workshop for the larger trails community at 2010 conference.
3. What can you contribute to a public works jobs programs?
- Guidance for "Sustainable trails construction" (specialized package).
- Strategy of implementation in each of federal, state, and local levels about technical, management, and social aspects.
- Assessment of actual trail construction for sustainability.
- Connecting people to the culture of trails.
- Tying together school curriculum, public health, environmental education, and trail training.
- Involving more Environmental Education people to work more on communication aspects.
- Training has to be a component of any national public works program: youth and conservation corps, schools, Scout-type groups, college level outing clubs, etc.
- A "National Trails Resource Center" modeled on American's Byways Resource Center could foster consistency among agencies that share the administration of the National Trails System.
- Embedding training in the culture of trail development.
- Developing more advanced training modules to follow Trails 101.
- Coming up with common curriculum and practices for trail skills: is that too large of a task? For instance, regarding crew leader training - a guide to regional differences is almost needed.
- Finding colleges and courses with trail content to create a higher education curriculum for trails.
- Researching trails issues and synthesizing key information to share with trails community to do a better job on resource protection, user awareness, and environmental education.
American Trails is working on many tasks that relate to the main issues raised by the discussion. Some of the goals are very ambitious, however valuable. Others need to be clarified and put into specific tasks that can be done by individuals, organizations, or agencies. The following are some responses and current actions that relate to the three big topics to help focus the discussion.
- Skills and Competencies area of NTTP website: can be used to track the issues and be updated with additional material, examples, etc.
- Serves as a hub/clearing house of info and training opportunities.
- Universal Trail Assessment Process (UTAP) coordinators training is one example of professionalizing accessibility for trails and outdoor recreation sites.
- Working with State Trail Administrators on developing knowledge base and professional skills in managing programs, grants, and planning efforts for trails and greenways.
- Opportunity: Work with states to improve skills of grant project sponsors.
- Opportunity: Encourage Professional Trailbuilders Association to take on leadership of this committee, or create its own task force to work with NTTP.
- Opportunity: Offer CEUs for the National Trails Symposium and other American Trails workshops. This will encourage more participation from planners, landscape architects, parks and recreation professionals, engineers, and others that need to earn continuing education credits in their professions – resulting in professionals with better trail-related skills.
- Opportunity: Share CEU research with others offering training in the trails community and encourage them to offer CEUs.
- Opportunity: American Trails Developer’s Award ~ join in American Trails project with housing community developers and urban planners to recognize and promote state of the art trail systems as part of new home developments.
- Much of the "Resources and Library" section of the American Trails website, which is branded with the NTTP header, is specifically promoting better skills and better trails.
- We seek new resources, research, and studies, and provide space in the American Trails Magazine and on the website to promote technical information on sustainability.
- Working with Outdoor Stewardship Institute and related programs to bring skills training programs to local and state sponsors.
- Opportunity: Compile material for webinars on aspects of sustainability; work with Byways Resource Center and other organizations that want to host webinar training.
- Opportunity: Find more authors and researchers to share their expertise.
- Opportunity: Develop training or workshop for the National Trails Symposium and other state trails conferences.
- Opportunity: Document creative projects that use accessibility guidelines in cost-effective ways to reduce maintenance needs while improving usability for people of all abilities.
3. Educational Outreach
- We raised the issue of compiling a college-level curriculum for non-motorized trails (like Marshall University online courses for OHV recreation) a few years ago. We have done a lot of research to find teachers or curriculum material, without a lot of success, but continue to collect contacts and ideas.
- Produced our first Trails Training e-Newsletter sent to the big list of organization, community, and agency contacts. Promotes training opportunities, resources, importance of learning skills: http://americantrails.org/enewsletter/training_Jan2009.html.
- Opportunity: Work with American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) and the American Planning Association (APA) on embedding trail planning and design skills in their curriculum.
- Opportunity: Provide material and ideas for periodic Trails Training e-Newsletters promoting training opportunities, which we have started this year.
- Opportunity: Promote training and workshops available to States in emails, personal contacts, on the website, in the calendar, and through the American Trails Magazine.
- Opportunity: Write new NTTP article on training providers and opportunities for all types of trail activities for partners to distribute to organizations, communities, and agencies.