Trail Worker Award

This award recognizes an individual that has made outstanding contributions and provided consistent support for trail planning, development, or maintenance. It is intended to recognize the efforts of a private or public sector individual working for enhanced trail recreation on either the local, state, or national level.


Montana: John McBride

The late John McBride of Missoula, Montana was Director of the National Smokejumper Association’s Trails Program.

Jon and fellow former smokejumper Art Jukkala founded the program in 1999. When Jukkala died on the organization’s first project that year, McBride became its director, a post he retained until his death of a heart attack on June 2, 2010.

Experienced woodsmen, McBride and Jukkala recognized that, because of budget constraints, the U.S. Forest Service was not maintaining trails as it had in the past. For example, only 800 miles of trail in Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness were being maintained in 1999 compared with nearly 4,000 miles of trail in the 1930s. The two men recruited 18 veteran smokejumpers for the first two projects in 1999.

Under McBride’s leadership, the program has grown each year since. During the summer of 2008, 216 volunteer former smokejumpers and associate members of the organization cleared over 100 miles of trail in six states, cutting hundreds of logs and trees that had been blocking them and restoring water bars. They also restored guard stations, lookout towers, other historic structures and built corrals and miles of fence.

The volunteers’ 2009 efforts resulted in the clearance of over 150 miles of trails with 28 projects in eight states by 318 one-week-volunteers. They also restored additional structures and built more fences and corrals.

That year also the program expanded to include lands managed by the National Park Service. Also in 2009 the program fielded the first “couples” crews that included spouses of the volunteer smokejumpers and associates. To accomplish the work, McBride served as liaison to many national forests, the National Park Service and entities such as the Bob Marshall Foundation, the Selway-Bitterroot Foundation and several horsemen’s groups. He secured funding from corporate entities and the federal government to provide food, tools and equipment to the volunteers.

His home served as the warehouse for the tools and equipment, and he formed committees to set standards and policies for the effort, in addition to delegating responsibilities to volunteers for such essential tasks as preparing menus, buying food, serving as cooks and maintaining tools. With excess funds, he established a scholarship program to benefit children of smokejumpers killed in the line of duty or in war. He personally headed that portion of the program’s logistics operation that was responsible for transporting the volunteers to and from their respective trailheads.

McBride not only led the trails program, he was a hands-on worker too, participating in one or more projects each year. He also endeavored to meet and provide refreshments to trail crews on which he didn’t serve as they hiked from the woods after their assignments. McBride’s leadership was recognized in a letter from President Barack Obama and an award from the chief of the U.S. Forest Service early in 2010.

618 views • posted 01/16/2018