Section 508 Navigation
American Trails header Skip Navigation
HomeAbout usTrailsWhat's hotCalendarTrainingResources & libraryPartnersJoin usStore

trail maintenance and management
Hosted by AmericanTrails.org

Mobile Skills Crew supports Ice Age Trail

Program provides tools, equipment, and training to teach volunteers project organization, safety-first strategies, and technical trail building concepts.

From Ice Age Park and Trail Foundation

Map of ColoradoHistory of Mobile Skills Crew

The conceptual beginnings of the Ice Age Park and Trail Foundation (IAPTF) Mobile Skills Crew (MSC) originated with a Crew Leadership/Skills Training sponsored by the American Hiking Society and Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, attended by two IAPTF staff in April 2001. As evidenced by the notable lack of constructed tread for most of the 570 Ice Age Trail miles then open to public use, historically, volunteer trail builders brought with them multiple reference points in trail standards and construction techniques. Recognizing the multi-faceted benefits of creating an elevated and consistent standard by which the Ice Age National Scenic Trail is built and maintained, following a report to IAPTF and the National Park Service (NPS) staff in May 2001 by Malzhan and Thusius, NPS agreed to fund a majority share of the tool, equipment and training needs required to launch a pilot program known as the Mobile Skills Crew. Intended to introduce advanced project organization, safety-first strategies, and technical trail building concepts to volunteers, the MSC-model was and continues to be enthusiastically embraced by participants and agency partners.

For more information on the Ice Age Trail Mobile Skills Crew visit: www.iceagetrailmsc.org/

Accomplishments

Measurement techniques used to evaluate the MSC program indicate quantifiable units such as 35+ miles of new or upgraded trail, ~500 participants who’ve donated ~30,000 volunteer hours at MSC events, and an outstanding safety record. Other equally important indicators include an increasingly unified statewide vision of the Ice Age Trail (IAT) by members, volunteers and public partners; local chapters emulating MSC-style events and adopting MSC standards; effective volunteer leadership succession within MSC; improved partner relations; implementing Section 106 compliance requirements; and constructed trail segments that serve as demonstration segments for area landowners and local maintainers review.

Core Values

The program focus is to educate and empower volunteers to build a premier footpath known as the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Core values include bolstering partner relationships, assisting with chapter development, defining a positive identity by which the IAT is recognized, sharing responsibility for successful project outcomes, executing an elevated standard of trail work, and seeing with new eyes in order to create an imaginative, intimate experience for trail users that showcases the varied and rich textures of the land itself.

Why has MSC been so successful to date?

Based on participant feedback, MSC owes its present level of success to thorough organizational techniques, attention to safe work practices, utilizing diverse volunteer talents, and providing a welcoming and respectful environment for volunteers to achieve satisfaction while working toward a common goal. This healthy mix of hard work and play, where the shared experience of helping to craft the IAT and the special camaraderie that results, is an extremely rewarding experience in which to participate. This process engages and retains new volunteers, revitalizes veterans, increases public respect for the IAT and thereby strengthens the IAPTF.

Need for plan

Following the unprecedented success demonstrated between 2002-2004, and the increasing commitment of volunteers to the program and the amount of staff time dedicated to it, the board of directors, staff and volunteers recognized the need to collectively examine MSC and discuss options for deliberate growth. It was decided to health-check the program for strengths and weaknesses and to weigh the importance of devoting resources to MSC versus other priorities equally vital to sustaining the mission of the Ice Age Park and Trail Foundation.

Who was involved and when

To ensure that dialogue traffics freely between volunteers, staff, and agency partners MSC program surveys where distributed to 300 participants asking whether or not MSC has met expectations, what is important about MSC, and what the direction of the program should be. One hundred and two surveys were completed and returned. The survey results were utilized to initiate discussion at a planning retreat attended by a cross-section of twenty-four participants Friday December 3rd through Sunday December 5 th 2004 at the Merrill School Forest Lodge, Lincoln County.

Revelations

Survey results rated “contributing time to an important cause,” “having fun/Trail camaraderie” and “working safely” as the most important reasons volunteers choose to participate in MSC projects. “Building new trail segments”, “seeing different parts of the state”, and “just being outside” ranked nearly as high. Retreat participants identified program strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, training needs, chapter involvement, capacity vs. need, broad goals, the type of projects to offer, volunteer and staff roles, and revised the MSC mission statement.

Short-term goals (next three years)

The MSC strategic plan includes the following goals, as well as strategies and activities to implement them: 1) the Ice Age National and State Scenic Trail is constructed and maintained as a superlative outdoor recreational experience of national, regional, and local significance; 2) work projects are conducted in a safe and enjoyable manner; 3) strong and reciprocal relationships are developed with local chapters, and public and private partners; 4) active volunteers are retained and participation increased in all program facets.

Future Potential (Why is the success of MSC critical to the Trail and IAPTF? Where do we hope MSC will take us?)

MSC incorporates components from nearly all program and partnership activities that the IAPTF is engaged with. The success of MSC is critical to the Trail and the IAPTF because MSC embodies the contemporary and the anticipated future model of volunteerism (episodic events, fluid roles, varied commitments, etc.) needed to keep the IAPTF vital. MSC demonstrates -on the ground and in the bones- the recreation, health, and conservation message of the IAT to a broad audience. The future potential for MSC to affect lasting and positive changes for the Trail is significant. This potential hinges on retaining and communicating MSC’s core values to a statewide audience, participatory education, and the level of commitment afforded the program by the IAPTF membership, board of directors, staff, and TRIAD (NPS, WDNR) partners.

Where will MSC take us?

MSC will be a critical factor in generating the substantially increased citizen and government buy-in needed to realize the vision Ray Zillmer first expressed fifty years ago. This vision of the IAT was updated in 2002 to be: a continuous footpath through diverse landscapes that: provides superlative outdoor recreation experiences; preserves and commemorates world renowned geological features formed during the Wisconsin Glaciation; provides a natural corridor that protects habitat and enables the movement of wildlife; serves as a lifelong educational resource; provides quiet places for people to form and nurture a spiritual connection with the landscape; promotes the health and vigor of users of all ages and abilities; and links the history and diverse human cultures of the land that we call Wisconsin.

MISSION STATEMENT

The mission of the Ice Age Park and Trail Foundation Mobile Skills Crew is to educate and empower volunteers to build a premier footpath known as the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.

VISION STATEMENT We envision

1. A premier hiking experience known as the Ice Age Trail constructed and maintained to consistently high standards using native materials whenever possible; and

2. A network of trained and committed volunteers who learn and apply leadership and technical skills, practice “Safety First” strategies, and who maintain a strong aesthetic sense while working cooperatively with public and private partners; and

3. That the value of the Ice Age Trail is recognized and inspires participation in its development, protection and promotion; and

4. A welcoming and safe environment for volunteers to achieve satisfaction while working toward a common goal.

2005-2008 GOALS

1. The Ice Age National and State Scenic Trail is constructed and maintained as a superlative outdoor recreational experience of national, regional, and local significance

2. Work projects are conducted in a safe and enjoyable manner

3. Strong and reciprocal relationships are developed with local chapters, and public and private partners

4. Active volunteers are retained and participation increased in all program facets

STRATEGIES & ACTIVITIES

1. The Ice Age National and State Scenic Trail is constructed and maintained as a superlative outdoor recreational experience of national, regional, and local significance

A. Provide on-going training opportunities

  1. Develop a training plan that includes a Skills Certification Program and considers training opportunities available through other accredited organizations – 2006
  2. Implement the training plan by conducting training in topics such as technical skills, crew leadership, the care and feeding of volunteer trail crews, chainsaw safety, and First Aid/CPR – on-going
  3. Disseminate training notices to the IAPTF membership and the at-large trail community through chapter and media outlets – on-going
  4. Include training seminars at two to four work projects annually as outlined in the training plan – 2006
  5. Incorporate chapter involvement and educational opportunities in aspects of project planning, trail layout and design, trail construction and maintenance, and project follow-up techniques – 2005

B. Demonstrate sustainable trail-construction processes

  1. Create a “How-To” media piece that demonstrates examples of the construction techniques employed by MSC – 2008
  2. Design and place interpretive signage at strategic project locations statewide that diagram examples of MSC techniques-used – 2008
  3. Place MSC commemorative plaques at all project locations – on-going
  4. Create a MSC Crew Leadership and Skills handbook based on sustainable trail building and crew leadership techniques specific to the glacial terrain of Wisconsin and IAPTF volunteerism – 2008
  5. Apply National Park Service and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources standards for trail construction techniques as appropriate or required – on-going

C. Network with other trail and conservation organizations regionally and nationally

  1. Continue work and training exchanges with Volunteers For Outdoor Colorado – on-going
  2. Work with groups such as the North Country Trail Association, the Nature Conservancy, and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to identify and promote volunteer participation for work projects and training opportunities in and outside of Wisconsin – 2006, 2008

2. work projects are conduced in a safe and enjoyable manner

A. Implement well-organized safety procedures

  1. Establish a project safety net for each event – on-going
  2. Supply volunteers with the proper safety equipment – on-going
  3. Explain safety procedures during daily tool safety lecture – on-going
  4. Take frequent water and rest breaks while working – on-going
  5. Monitor volunteer work pace – on-going

B. Foster an inclusive, respectful, and fun environment

  1. Clearly communicate program and project goals, procedures, and tasks to participants throughout all project stages – on-going
  2. Treat all participants fairly and with respect – on-going
  3. Deal forthrightly with any disruptive volunteers or influences – on-going
  4. Create and maintain a non-competitive work environment – on-going
  5. Encourage interaction between crew members – on-going

3. Strong and reciprocal relationships are developed with local chapters, and public and private partners

A. Create a cohesive communication process between chapters, partners and MSC members

  1. Understand and follow protocol as detailed in the MSC Project Team Description and Project Application – on-going
  2. Meet with chapter and agency representatives early and often throughout the planning process per the General Project and Chapter Planning Timeline – on- going
  3. Value and learn from the knowledge and experience of non-MSC volunteers and partners by practicing careful listening techniques and encouraging feedback – on-going
  4. Follow through and execute meeting ‘action items’ in a timely fashion – on- going
  5. Provide educational and participatory opportunities for local volunteer involvement in the areas of project planning, trail construction and maintenance, crew leadership, and specific construction techniques – on-going
  6. Conduct a project walk-thru with chapter participants before and after the project and provide a maintenance and follow-up report, a copy of the construction notes, and a local participant list – on-going
  7. Provide “tours” of past projects during statewide (i.e. annual and regional chapter meetings, TRIAD and other events) – 2007

4. Retain active volunteers and increase participation in all program facets

A. Increase the number of first time Ice Age Trail volunteers

  1. Send press releases to local and regional media outlets – on-going
  2. Give advance presentations to local conservation/recreation organizations, schools, service organizations, and more – on-going
  3. Create and distribute an MSC brochure – 2006
  4. Create and distribute MSC project specific promotional items – 2006
  5. Ensure good geographic distribution of projects statewide through the project selection process – on-going
  6. Work with the host chapter to identify and contact existing chapter members currently not engaged with IAPTF activities, identify new volunteer opportunities and area service groups – on-going
  7. Encourage volunteers to ‘bring a friend’ when coming to the project – on-going
  8. Solicit volunteer assistance with project-specific tasks including the care and feeding of volunteers and media relations – on-going
  9. Include MSC updates in IAPTF media outlets such as the IAPTF web site, Mammoth Tales, chapter newsletters and web sites, local newspaper and magazine feature articles, and other opportunities as they arise – on-going

B. Retain active volunteers

  1. Maintain open and consistent lines of communication between volunteers and IAPTF staff – on-going
  2. Provide and encourage rotating roles for volunteers – on-going
  3. Encourage Skills and Crew Leader certifications – 2006
  4. Ensure a consistent, quality, enjoyable experience while working on the trail and in the camp setting at days-end – on-going
  5. Follow-up projects with a thank-you to participants and invite them to participate in future projects – on-going

C. Build program capacity by encouraging volunteers to engage in multiple and diverse roles

  1. Identify interested, capable volunteers and ”recruit to task, upgrade to project” – on-going
  2. Track volunteer participation roles, hours, projects, etc. in a staff administered database – 2005
  3. Increase the number of qualified MSC Crew Leaders – on-going
  4. Provide chapters with a list of MSC members and their technical qualifications – 2005

For more information on the Ice Age Trail Mobile Skills Crew visit: www.iceagetrailmsc.org/

Related topics:

More resources:

nttp logo


page footer

Contact us | Mission statement | Board of directors | Member organizations | Site map | Copyright | NRT | NTTP