12 Resources for Building Trail Stewards

Use this library of resources, articles, and trainings to create an army of effective trail stewards.

by Taylor Goodrich, Communication and Media Specialist, American Trails

Trails provide safe access to the outdoors for hiking, biking, birding, horseback riding, trail running, off-highway vehicle use, and other forms of motorized and non-motorized recreation. They are the gateway and connections to nearly every facet of outdoor recreation, including fishing, hunting, wildlife viewing, camping, and more.

Trails are core infrastructure on which America's large and growing outdoor recreation sector of the economy is based, accounting for more than half of outdoor recreation-based economic activity and creating nearly 3.5 million jobs. These benefits are often received by small and rural communities. In 2018, outdoor recreation accounted for nearly $800 billion in economic activity, including $124 billion in tax revenues at the federal, state, and local levels. Economic sectors associated with outdoor recreation are growing faster than the national economy as a whole, particularly in regions where employment and economic opportunities in other sectors have declined.

Uniquely, the management and maintenance of our nation’s trail network is largely supported by trail stewardship organizations and volunteers who leverage government resources to maintain and expand our trails. Without this robust trail stewardship network, we will be unable to address the deferred maintenance needs which sustain the growth and productivity of the high-performing outdoor recreation economic sector.

Below, we have gathered resources that you can use to support your existing stewardship network or create a new one in an area that needs this critical workforce.

New and Upcoming Trainings

  • Trail Master Steward, Introduction Course – "The Trail Master Steward online course is intended to provide volunteers, trail organizations, and land managers both a foundational understanding of the values inherent in trail stewardship as well as introduce the basic skills required to be steward of our trail resources." This course, which costs only ten dollars, is offered through Utah State University and can help train trail stewards to be as effective, efficient, and safe as they can be. Learn more here...
  • Managing High-Use Trails This webinar, presented October 1, 2020, will cover how trail steward and trailbuilding programs have worked to make the public better informed, more responsible trails users while protecting the resource. This webinar is presented by Hank Osborn, Director of Programs, New York - New Jersey Trail Conference. Learn more here...

Past Webinars Available for Download

  • Water Trail Ambassador and Stewardship Programs The best water trails link outdoor recreation to conservation and stewardship opportunities. This a symbiotic relationship between recreating on waterways and protecting them doesn’t occur without effort. This webinar will explore water trail ambassador programs from coast to coast. Learn more here...
  • Improve Your Volunteer Stewardship Toolbox Managing volunteers to achieve high quality trail stewardship work for land managers is not easy. Learn from three organizations about the tools and resources available to you that will help you start, expand or enhance your outdoor stewardship volunteer program, achieving your goals, and providing exceptional service to land managers. Learn more here...

Tools and Resources From Around the Trails World

  • Stewarding and Training Volunteer Stewardship Groups With reduced funding sources, volunteers are a key component to being able to manage and maintain park and trail systems. Learn to successfully develop a stewardship group, and the pros and cons of working with this type of group. We will also discuss the roles of the agency verses the volunteers, and how to empower volunteers while addressing potential liability through volunteer training and education. Because a well-developed volunteer stewardship group is so diverse, this discussion will explore different leadership styles and ways to communicate with people from different backgrounds. Learn more here...
  • Motivating and Inspiring the Next Generation of Land Stewards Learn more about how the next generation plays a vital role in land stewardship, greenway development, and trail building. This session explores organizations that provide experiences that motivate and inspire youth to treasure their outdoors and become stewards of their natural environment, while instilling healthy living choices. Learn more here...
  • Training and Resources for Building Better Trails Learn about trail training services and opportunities plus a wide variety of technical resources available. Learn more here...
  • Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC) Stepping Up Stewardship VOC announces their Stepping Up Stewardship Toolkit: a first-of-its-kind, comprehensive set of resources specifically designed to help other groups and organizations start or expand their volunteer programs. Learn more here...
  • Advancing Trail Stewardship: Developing Sustainable Volunteer Programs This workshop focuses on practical ways for outdoor stewardship organizations and agencies to grow and expand the volunteer stewardship sector with greater organizational reliability and consistency across volunteer programs and in technical skill practices. Learn more here...
  • American Trails Trails Stewardship Academy The Trail Stewardship Academy (TSA) is a program of American Trails that supports increasing the capacity of the trails community to be the best possible stewards of the investment they make in trail development. Learn more here...

American Trails Past Articles

  • Inspiring Children to Become Lifelong Stewards of our Great Outdoors and Trails Environmental education inspires lifelong learning. Learn more here...
  • Volunteer Stewardship Tools Managing volunteers to achieve high quality trail stewardship work for land managers is not easy. Explore the tools and resources available to you that will help you start, expand or enhance your outdoor stewardship volunteer program, achieving your goals, and providing exceptional service to land managers. Learn more here...

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Published September 14, 2020

About the Author

Taylor Goodrich started with American Trails in January 2018 as Communication and Media Specialist. Taylor currently lives in Dallas, Texas, which is also where she grew up and where she attended the University of North Texas receiving her degree in History. While in college she started doing freelance work editing and writing, and also got into graphic design and discovered she loves the creativity and craft of digital arts. After college she traveled quite a bit, and lived in both the Pacific Northwest and in New Mexico, and while in both of those places took full advantage of what the outdoors had to offer. After moving back to Texas she started moving towards doing graphic design, social media, and communications work full time, and she has contracted with several companies from tech startups, to music festivals, to law firms, to grow their social media and digital communications presence. Taylor loves hiking and kayaking especially, and is glad to be working with an organization that fights for further accessibility and stewardship of our nation’s trails. She feels very lucky that in this position she will be able to use her professional skills and passion for something she is also very personally passionate about, and in helping to grow American Trails.

Contact: [email protected]

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