5 Feel-Good Stories of Amazing Trail Volunteers

Posted 10/11/17 by Laura Stark in America's Trails, Taking Action, Success Stories

Volunteers on Montour Trail | Photo courtesy Montour Trail Council
Laura Stark and Amy Kapp on Florida's Legacy Trail | Photo courtesy RTC

I love my job. As the lead writer for Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC), I’ve had the pleasure of sharing more than 100 trail stories with RTC members over the years—and have been awed, inspired and impressed by the tireless work of trail advocates and volunteers too many times to count. Below are just a few of these—and I can’t wait to discover more.

If reading these stories makes your heart swell two sizes too large, know that you can make a difference for trails, too; no contribution is too small. Make a Difference Day is coming up on Oct. 28, and RTC encourages you to take a pledge to make a positive change for trails. 

Will you pledge to make a difference for trails?

Yes, count me in!

1Montour Trail (Pennsylvania)

Volunteers on Montour Trail | Photo courtesy Montour Trail Council

Forming a wide arc around western Pittsburgh, the Montour Trail is a standout with picturesque scenery, bridges and cool railroad tunnels. Perhaps what sets it apart most, though, is what you don’t see. The rail-trail was created, and continues to grow and thrive, through the stalwart efforts of a nonprofit called the Montour Trail Council. It’s estimated that their volunteers donate more than 15,000 hours annually to build and maintain the trail.

Installing a new trail bridge | Photo courtesy of Cowboy Trail West, Inc.

2Cowboy Recreation and Nature Trail (Nebraska)

In the sparsely populated, rural northwest corner of Nebraska, where government budgets are extremely tight, a core of volunteers stepped up with might and muscle to make the Cowboy Trail between Gordon and Rushville happen. The hardworking group, known as Cowboy Trail West, Inc., builds bridges, sprays and mows to keep weeds from encroaching, picks up trash and completes numerous other tasks to keep the developing trail rolling.

3Pumpkinvine Nature Trail (Indiana)

Pumpkinvine Nature Trail's annual bike ride fundraiser | Photo by John D. Yoder

Without the Friends of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, there would be no rail-trail winding through the idyllic countryside of northern Indiana between Goshen and Shipshewana. In the early 1990s, the group made an offer to the railroad to purchase the right-of-way for a trail and raised the money to do so. For the nearly three decades since, they have continued to promote and support this beautiful, well-loved community amenity.

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4Ferry County Rail Trail (Washington)

Surfacing the Ferry County Rail Trail | Photo by Bobby Whittaker, courtesy Ferry County Rail Trail Partners

Northeast Washington’s Ferry County Rail Trail winds through a forested valley carved by the pristine Kettle River. As the rural county has no parks department, a nonprofit group called Ferry County Rail Trail Partners stepped up to fill that important role. Supporting the effort, the group gained the help of local civic-minded trucking and construction companies that have donated equipment and muscle to keep the trail’s development costs extremely low, and they’ve also received charitable donations from famed musicians whose auctioned-off instruments and other items have raised money for the project.

5Northern Rail Trail (New Hampshire)

Volunteer restoring historic mile marker on Northern Rail Trail | Photo by Dick Mackay

New Hampshire’s nearly 60-mile-long Northern Rail Trail has not just one volunteer group working on its behalf, but two—the Friends of the Northern Rail Trail in Grafton County and the Friends of the Northern Rail Trail in Merrimack County—plus local snowmobile clubs that also pitch in to help maintain that vast, forested expanse. This all-hands-on-deck approach has made this New England rail-trail an exceptional destination.

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