filed under: volunteers

Trail Ambassador Programs: Tips, Tricks, and Best Practices

Best practices from some of the best trail ambassador programs across the nation, representing a variety of trail user types, to offer sage advice for starting programs for your trail.

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Event Details

October 28, 2021

10:00 AM to 11:30 AM (Pacific Time) {more time zones}

11:00 AM to 12:30 PM (Mountain Time)
12:00 PM to 01:30 PM (Central Time)
01:00 PM to 02:30 PM (Eastern Time)


FREE for members
FREE for nonmembers

Learning Credit Cost:

  • CEUs are FREE for this webinar.
  • Note:

    Closed Captioning is available for this webinar.
    Learning Credits
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    Webinar Outline

    Trail ambassador programs can be a boon to any trail or trail system. They build local engagement, help identify and solve deferred maintenance issues, and turn casual users into lifelong advocates. We've gathered together leaders of some of the best ambassador programs across the nation, representing a variety of trail user types, to share best practices and offer sage advice for starting programs for your trail. This session will showcase great examples and resources and will focus on providing ample time for answering your most burning questions. Don't miss this opportunity to engage your most ardent supporters in meaningful ways.

    Below are prime examples of the ambassador programs you will learn more about on the webinar:

    Friends of Scotchman Peak Wilderness Trail Ambassadors (Idaho)

    In 2015 a hiker on the Scotchman Peak trail encouraged a mountain goat to lick his leg for a unique “selfie”, resulting in dozens of stitches and a trail closed for the remainder of the season. The next summer our volunteer Trail Ambassadors program began. We recruit, train and deploy volunteer trail ambassadors on Scotchman Peak, an iconic mountain in the panhandle of Idaho, on weekends and holidays from early June to Early October. Our Ambassadors engage, one on one, the thousands of hikers drawn to this iconic trail in order to keep mountain goats wild, hikers safe and trails open for our community during

    Trailkeepers of Oregon Trail Ambassador Program (Oregon)

    Trailkeepers of Oregon's Trail Ambassador program currently serves hiking trails in the Columbia River Gorge, the Mt. Hood National Forest and is growing to serve the Oregon coast as well. Started in 2018 in response to a need for up-to-date public information after the Eagle Creek Fire closed hundreds of miles of trails in the Gorge, the program has grown and widened its focus to make trails in Oregon a welcoming and safe place for all people to connect with nature. The program has worked with over 150 volunteers over the last 4 years and is building an innovative network approach to share the love by being a hub for resources that help other organizations in Oregon meet their need for similar programming.

    Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance Wildlife Trail Ambassador Program (Colorado)

    The Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance (VVMTA) launched the Wildlife Trail Ambassador (WTA) program in the spring of 2018 after recognizing the need to proactively educate and communicate with trail users and the community about seasonal wildlife trail closures in Eagle County, Colorado. Volunteer ambassadors are placed at seasonally closed trailheads to enforce and educate trail users about the closure along with leave no trace principles, trail etiquette, and options where trail users can recreate during these times. Additionally, the program includes social ambassadors who are members of the community who frequently interact and inform the public of the importance of seasonal closures at events/meetings such as hotel conferences, community groups, at outdoor retailers, and within their social networks. The VVMTA in partnership with the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District has installed and managed over 10 game cameras on seasonally closed trails to provide data and inform the direction and decisions of the WTA program. Since the program began, volunteer ambassadors have logged over 500 hours and contacted over 2,000 trail users at trailheads.

    NOHVIS Group Trail Ambassador Program (Wisconsin)

    The NOHVIS Group trail ambassador program is a proven success in Wisconsin as it increases participation in off-highway motorized vehicle clubs, establishes a presence of volunteers on the trails, helps increase safety for other users and engages a positive image in community events. Trail ambassadors undergo online classroom training with hands-on field day training. We work closely with local, state and federal land managers and law enforcement agencies to provide a positive image for our sport.

    Friends of Okanagan Rail Trail Ambassadors (British Columbia, Canada)

    The Okanagan Rail Trail is situated in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia and was opened in September 2018. It is jointly owned by the City of Kelowna, the Okanagan Indian Band, the District of Lake Country and the Regional District of North Okanagan. Friends of Okanagan Rail Trail (FORT) is the recognized volunteer society that works to improve the trail and the trail users experience.

    The purpose of the Trail Ambassador program is to recruit, train and retain volunteers to welcome visitors, answer questions observe use patterns, encourage and model trail etiquette, record maintenance issues, and submit user feedback reports to the trail owners. We have a small volunteer committee that develops, maintains, and promotes the program, gathers needed resources, plans, implements and evaluates training, and reports to the board at monthly meetings.

    Back Country Horsemen of America Trail Ambassadors/Trail Adopters (National)

    The Back Country Horsemen of America (BCHA) was formed in 1973 and is now a nationwide service organization with 11,000 members in 32 states including 205 chapters. The primary reason for forming BCHA was the possibility of losing our traditional right to use recreational stock in the back country. One key mission is on “Keeping Trails Open For All” — with a focus on non-motorized trails. The sustainment of our access to the National Trail System is a related co-mission. We are advocates for “Maintaining Public Lands in Public Hands.” Over the last 47 years, BCHA has done maintenance, preservation and construction on trails, trailheads, and other projects — in the forests, parks, and wilderness — valued at over $150 million. BCHA tries to be an effective, helpful volunteer group to assist and support land managers as well as public officials, lawmakers, and legislators. Back Country Horsemen of Arizona has an interesting partnership with the Tonto National Forest wherein they maintain and monitor 16 hiker/horse trails on the forest. The presenter will speak briefly on their trail adopters/ambassadors on lessons learned and where that partnership has gone.

    American Trails National Recreation Trails Ambassador Program (National)

    The National Recreation Trail (NRT) Ambassador Program is a nationwide effort, led by American Trails, to enlist volunteers for stewardship, collaboration, and information gathering on the over 1,300 NRTs across America. The NRT program was created in 1968 and over the years many previously designated NRTs have stopped being active in the program. Our volunteer ambassadors are helping to get updated information on these trails for the NRT database, including updated photos, centerline data, and signage for each trail.

    Following the presentations, the panelists will respond to questions from webinar participants.

    Learning Objectives:

    • Learn successful strategies for creating your own ambassador program
    • Understand processes for individual ambassador programs in small and large settings
    • Understand processes for individual ambassador programs of different trail types


    This webinar qualifies as a Health, Safety, and Welfare (HSW) course (via LA CES).


    Webinar Partners


    Phil Hough, Executive Director, Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness
    Sandpoint, ID

    Phil Hough is Executive Director of the Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness. He is a founding board member of the Idaho Trails Association and now serves on their advisory board. He is a past president of the American Long Distance Hikers West Association (ALDHA-WEST). Phil is a member of the Idaho Panhandle Forest Collaborative and a member of the North Idaho Resources Advisory Council (RAC). Along with his wife Deb, Phil has explored wilderness areas across our continent. Together they have hiked the “triple crown”: the Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail and the Pacific Crest trail (twice). He has also paddled the length of the Yukon River.


    Ernest Saeger, Executive Director, Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance
    Eagle County, Colorado

    Ernest came to the Vail Valley in 2014 to work as the Director of Operations for a local nonprofit organization. He currently resides in Eagle with his adventure partner Hailee. Ernest believes that like the reward of a downhill after a long climb or setting a skin track, trail work provides that same “earn your turns” satisfaction. When you can’t find him on a bike or skis, you’ll most likely still find him outdoors, and if not there then he’s in an ice rink. Ernest is also a member of Vail Mountain Rescue Group. He serves on many coalitions and committees in the Vail Valley including the Eagle County Community Wildlife Roundtable, Town of Eagle Open Space & Trails Advisory Committee, Eagle Valley Outdoor Stewardship Coalition, and more. He is truly excited to help bring new and improved trails to our community for all to enjoy for many years to come.


    Natalie Ferraro, Engagement Manager, Trailkeepers of Oregon
    Portland, OR

    A lifelong Cascadian, Natalie grew up hiking, camping, and climbing trees in Southwest Washington. She earned her degree in Environmental Science from Washington State University and has worked in outdoor recreation and education since 2012. Natalie joined Trailkeepers of Oregon as a staff person in 2018. In addition to helping out with all of TKO’s volunteer and fundraising programs, she also manages the Trail Ambassador Network.


    Adam Harden, Deputy Administrator, Ambassador Program, NOHVIS
    Sheboygan, Wisconsin

    Adam Harden is the Deputy Administrator for the trail ambassador program. He has served for nearly 20 years as a volunteer firefighter as well as a volunteer drone team member for the Sheboygan County Sheriff's Office. He brings the tools, structure and mindset of leadership within the fire service to the trail ambassador program. Adam grew up enjoying many forms of off-highway motorized recreation including three wheelers, four wheelers and off-highway motorcycles. He is a former ATV Safety Institute safety instructor and a current instructor for the trail ambassador program and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources ATV Safety program. He also enjoys street legal motorcycle rides within his community. Adam is currently the Vice Chair of the Governor appointed Off-Road Vehicle Council for the State of Wisconsin. His duties include reviewing and suggesting the funding of grants for trail projects to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Adam has a wife and two daughters that love hitting the trails together.


    Randy Harden, Program Administrator, Ambassador Program, NOHVIS
    Sheboygan, Wisconsin

    Randy Harden is the program administrator for the trail ambassador program, as well as the president of the Wisconsin ATV / UTV Association. Randy has always been involved with off-highway vehicles going back to the 60's. During the 1980's, Randy became involved with the conservation efforts and safety education when his children became interested in following in his footsteps. Randy became the president of the then Wisconsin ATV Association in the 90's where he helped grow the ATV program in Wisconsin. Randy has helped start many local chapter ATV clubs throughout Wisconsin. He also is a former ATV Safety Institute Safety Instructor and a current Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources safety instructor for the ATV safety program. Randy sits on the Wisconsin State Trails Council, which works on common issues with various trail user groups in Wisconsin.


    Phyllis Turner, Volunteer Lead, Trail Ambassador Program, Director, Friends of Okanagan Rail Trail
    Lake Country, British Columbia

    Phyllis is a retired RN who was born in the Okanagan and has returned there following my husband, Tom’s, retirement. They are active community members and volunteer for a number of organizations. They first began supporting the Okanagan Rail Trail when they helped to raise 7.8 million dollars to construct the trail from the abandoned 52 km (32.3 miles) rail line between Vernon and Kelowna, BC. Phyllis keeps active by walking, bike riding, playing pickleball, and kayaking. She has enjoyed biking on many trails in BC, PEI, northern Washington, and Idaho.


    Steve McClintock, National Director for Arizona, Back Country Horsemen of America
    Mesa, Arizona

    Steve McClintock is one of two the National Directors for AZ on the BCHA National Board. He was President of the East Valley BCH Chapter in Apache Junction (East Mesa), AZ from 2015-2021. He is also Chairman of the BCHA Legacy Fund — an endowment like fund. He worked for Citibank N.A, New York in their International Group for 37 years and lived overseas for 28 years in 6 different countries. His horse is Ranger, a Tennessee Walking Horse, and a darn good trail horse.


    Taylor Goodrich, Communication and Media Specialist, American Trails
    Dallas, TX

    Taylor Goodrich started with American Trails in January 2018 as Communication and Media Specialist. Taylor has worked with the National Recreation Trail (NRT) Ambassadors since the beginning of the program and has helped shape the program to where it is today. 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.


    Closed Captioning

    We are offering closed captioning for our webinars, thanks to a partnership with VZP Digital. If you are in need of this service, please email us prior to the webinar. An unedited transcript will be sent to all attendees following the webinar.

    Learning Credits and CEUs

    American Trails is proud to be a certified provider of the following learning credits and continuing education opportunities:

    • American Institute of Certified Planners Continuing Maintenance (AICP CM)
    • Landscape Architecture Continuing Education System (LA CES PDH)
    • National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) CEU equivalency petition
    • CEU/PDH equivalency petition for other accepting organizations

    Learning credits are free for American Trails webinars and are either free or a $15 fee for other conferences, webinars, or workshops.


    While we may individually agree (or disagree) in whole or in part with any or all of the participants, the views expressed in these webinars are not necessarily representative of the views of American Trails as an organization or its board and staff.

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