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Theme: The Trail Center at the End of the Millennium

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The Trail Companion (ISSN 1528-0241 (print); 1094-222X (online)) is the quarterly newsletter of the Trail Center.

Editor: Scott Heeschen
Staff Writer: Geoffrey Skinner

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The Trail Companion

Winter 2000

Theme: The Trail Center at the End of the Millennium

A Brief History of the Trail Center


     Crew leaders had always been a critical part of the trail work structure, with volunteers often promoted in the field after attending a few trail builds. The TC and MROSD held joint yearly crew leader training sessions until 1990, when the TC developed its own Crew Leader Training Seminar. Over the succeeding years, the Crew Leader Training Committee taught many would-be crew leaders, as well as numerous trainees sent by county and city park agencies.
     Through the first part of the 1990s, TC volunteers built and maintained numerous trails in parks and preserves from southern Santa Clara County to the Presidio of San Francisco, including another major project in Santa Teresa County Park (Santa Clara County) with a Bob Kelly serving as part-time trail coordinator. With the continuing successful projects and high membership, the TC explored the possibility of cloning a sister organization to serve Sonoma, Napa and Marin Counties. Then the economy plunged into recession and funds for trail work from park agencies and corporate donors dried up. The TC watched the ranks of loyal volunteers dwindle as long-term projects gave way to sporadic one-day events. Madeleine's successor, Tom French, left and the director position was abolished, with office staff consisting of Office Coordinator Terry Segal (later Alice Stern) and Outreach Coordinator Joan Schwan (later Cindy Stead) carrying on most of the work. Within a short time, the TC rejoined the Peninsula Conservation Center, now on East Bayshore Road in Palo Alto.
     The local economy picked up by the mid-90s and suddenly money was available for trail work again and the TC began a number of projects at a more local level, with work in Stanford University's Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve and several municipalities, as well as a series of self-funded projects at Castle Rock State Park. The TC's first trail map, the Trail Map of the Southern Peninsula, went to press in 1997, and work began on revision of Peninsula Parklands and the Trail Map of the Central Peninsula. The TC hired its last director, Sandy Nichols, in an attempt to preserve and expand all three areas of focus-mapping, trail work and information. Despite some successes, the volunteer and funding climate had changed since the TC's early years and several projects were unexpectedly delayed or canceled. Sandy left for another position and the TC moved to part-time staffing again.
     As discussed in the Summer 1999 issue of the Trail Companion, the Board finally faced several difficult decisions after months of uncertainty about the TC's direction. The TC dropped the map retail business and contracted with Wilderness Press for distribution of TC-authored maps. Without map sales, the need for paid office staff disappeared and we moved to an all-volunteer operation. Since the majority of expenses were map-related, the TC budget was soon in the black for the first time since the early 90s and nearly all membership dollars could go directly to supporting trail work and map creation.

What's ahead?

     As an all-volunteer organization, we will soon be in a better position to self-fund more projects and more effectively leverage our assets. We expect to begin a series of projects with Santa Clara County, beginning with a Ridge Trail project in Sanborn-Skyline County Park. We anticipate continued work with Bay Area Action's Arastradero Preserve Stewardship Project, Jasper Ridge, and California State Parks. The Web will likely become an even more important tool for recruiting volunteers and communicating with our members and the general public. We will look to volunteers for an increasing wide scope of tasks, including a possible rebirth of the map offerings (albeit at a smaller scale). Work will begin on revisions to the Trail Map of the Southern Peninsula.
     In many ways, the goals and mission of the Trail Center have not changed since its birth seventeen years ago. Through all of our programs, we still strive to encourage stewardship of trails and public lands throughout the San Francisco Peninsula, South Bay Area and beyond. Thanks to the efforts of the Peninsula Open Space Trust, MROSD and others, the amount of land under public ownership continues to increase; the need for volunteers in the outdoors will only grow.

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Related Stories

The National Volunteer Project and National Outdoor Volunteer Network
The Changing Face of Volunteerism
The Changing Face of Public Lands
A Trail Center Index
A Catalog of Trail Projects, 1983-1999

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