This post was written by Matt Heller, GMC’s Media Intern. Matt is a senior in the media studies program at St. Michael’s College, minoring in environmental studies. All photos and videos in this post are his.
On Monday, October 5th, Green Mountain Club staff members and volunteers spent the day near the summit of Mount Ellen constructing puncheon. These small bridge-like structures allow hikers to walk over the muddy trail as opposed to going through it.
Without puncheon, it is recommended that hikers go straight through the mud. Going around the mud creates “social trails” which damages trailside vegetation and widens mud pits. As Lorne Currier, Volunteer and Education Coordinator for the Green Mountain Club put it, “Mud makes more mud when you add in hikers that don’t stay in the mud.”
Currier, who led this trail work day, takes many different groups of volunteers out on the trail throughout the year. Some are community service groups like college outing clubs and boy scout troops. Some are made up of members of GMC’s network of over 1,000 annual volunteers. This includes trail adopters who, piece by piece, individually maintain the length of the Long Trail and its side trails, as well as section volunteers, who are members of regionally-based chapters assigned to specific areas of the Long Trail.
“If we didn’t have the volunteer corps that we have then a lot of the trails wouldn’t see maintenance,” Currier said.
Despite not being able to run large-group efforts this year, Currier said there was an increase in hours that trail adopters put into their sections of trail. Both from people simply having more free time as well as from people acknowledging the need for conservation during this year’s increased trail use, the 500+ miles of trail network received the attention it needed this year.
This work day on Mount Ellen exemplified the cooperation it takes to maintain such a large network of trails. Neither staff nor volunteers can do it alone, but when we all work together it benefits not only the trail, but also the community that is the GMC.
While winter sees fewer volunteer opportunities in the field, Currier will spend the time signing up new volunteers, planning projects with returning ones, and running educational programs in preparation for the 2021 trail season. There are many ways to get involved, so please see our Volunteer Opportunities page to see which one is right for you!