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The trails training survey for the National Trails Training Partnership asked respondents to share their experience and ideas on effective types of training and delivery methods, as well as identifying important skills where training is needed.

arrow Download a summary of responses to the trails training survey (pdf 119 kb)

arrow See the complete list of current Featured Training Providers

arrow See currently scheduled training opportunities on the National Trails Training Partnership Calendar


Trails training survey completed with 1,000+ responses

By Stuart Macdonald, National Trails Training Partnership project manager for American Trails

Over 1,000 people involved in trails provided responses to a trails training survey administered in October-November 2011. The online survey was conducted for the National Trails Training Partnership (NTTP), a nationwide cooperative effort to improve the quality and availability of trail-related skills. The survey asked respondents to share their experience and ideas on effective types of training and delivery methods, as well as identifying important skills where training is needed.

photo of man with notes on easel

Opening screen from the online trails training survey

The survey provided a long list of specific topics and asked people to rate the need for these different kinds of skills. We also asked about best ways to deliver training, how people have learned trail skills, and priorities for the National Trails Training Partnership. Finally, we asked about 20 people from trail groups, States, and agencies some questions by phone on more specific issues and ideas for training.

Some preliminary results

Who participated? The survey was answered by a broad range of interests and affiliations. The largest single category of respondent was "Regional or local trail organization," with 24% of the total (251 people). Others included Federal agency (160 respondents), Local government (147), State agency (119), National trail organization (62), Business or contractor (53), and Park district (41). The "Current position" question indicated that almost 30% are volunteers and 51% are trail managers or other professionals.

Category of trails that respondents are involved in allowed for overlapping choices, but 49% indicated Backcountry trails while 34% selected Greenway or urban trails. Other categories that respondents oversee or maintain included Nature trails (38%), OHV trails (19%), National Scenic Trail (17%), National Historic Trail (11%), Water trails (10%), and Snowmobile trails (9%).

How skills were learned? It should be no surprise that 81% learned "On the job" while only 16% reported "in College." Other significant responses were Workshops and seminars (52%), Conferences (36%), Informal research (11%), and Site visits with contractors/consultants (22%).

What training methods are effective? We asked for "types of training and delivery methods you feel are most effective." Only two methods were rated in the "Most Effective" category: On-the-job training with a qualified instructor (64%), followed by Field workshops and seminars (50%). The training methods that rated somewhat lower were Traveling trainers and Internships. The lowest responses were given to college classes, conferences, and webinars.

Some of these responses bring up more questions than they answer. For instance the response on webinars rated them low on effectiveness, but people's experiences with webinars vary widely. Questions we need to look into are what topics are most appropriate to webinars, and how can webinars be more focused and learning-intensive.

Combining training with trail work is a technique we have promoted for some years. Responses indicated that 54% have "hosted training combined with trail work" and 28% plan to pursue this type of training. Thirty-two percent said they would like to know more about it.

Making training more available provided more choices on types of training. By far the most popular was "Regionally or locally organized workshops and training sessions" (82%). This was reinforced by the answer to the next question, which indicated that 67% would travel only as far as 100 miles for training. Less than three percent said they were unable or unwilling to travel at all.

Preferred duration of training sessions was a Full day (37%), followed by Two days (31%).


More work to be done on survey analysis

There were many more questions asked in the survey, and there were hundreds of write-in responses which will need to be examined closely. We'll report on what we learn periodically. Other questions and information we'll be looking at include:

Finally, we'll be contacting the respondents who asked questions or wanted more information on specific topics. We also found that half of the respondents said their group or agency was sponsoring training in the next two years, so we'll be asking for details when the training is scheduled.


Federal Highway Adminstration project information

The Federal Highway Administration included the survey work in an existing cooperative agreement with American Trails on trails training and information clearinghouse work. The official FHWA project information is:

"This collection of information is voluntary and will be used to determine eligibility of project for possible Federal funding. Public reporting burden is estimated to average 1 hour per response, including the time for reviewing instructions, searching existing data sources, gathering and maintaining the data needed, and completing and reviewing the collection of information. Please note that an agency may not conduct or sponsor, and a person is not required to respond to, a collection of information unless it displays a currently valid OMB control number. The OMB control number for this collection is 2125-0590 with an expiration date of 11/30/2011. Send comments regarding this burden estimate or any other aspect of this collection of information, including suggestions for reducing this burden to: Information Collection Clearance Officer, Federal Highway Administration, 1200 New Jersey Ave SE, Washington, DC 20590."


arrow Download a summary of responses to the trails training survey (pdf 119 kb)

The National Trails Training Partnership

See the National Trails Training Partnership website at

American Trails is the lead nonprofit partner for the National Trails Training Partnership:

P.O. Box 491797, Redding, CA 96049-1797 - Phone (530) 605-4395 - Fax: (530) 547-2035
Email: - Webmaster: Stuart Macdonald

The National Trails Training Partnership is an alliance of Federal agencies, training providers, nationwide supporters, and providers of products and services. Visit the online calendar of training opportunities, access hundreds of trail-related resources, read the news, learn how you can help, and see training resources in your state.

This material is based upon work supported by the Federal Highway Administration under Cooperative Agreement DTFH61-06-H-00023. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the Author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Federal Highway Administration.



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