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

Editors:Mary Simpson, Megan Hansen
Layout: Scott Heeschen
Staff Writer: Geoffrey Skinner
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Trail Center
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The Trail Companion

Winter 2002

A Day in the Life of a Crew Leader

by Richard Allsop and Geoffrey Skinner

If you have ever taken part in one of the Trail Center's trail construction or maintenance events, you've had the opportunity to work with one or more red-shirted crew leaders, and perhaps a crew leader trainee wearing a red bandanna. Crew leaders and trainees form a critical part of the TC's operation - without these experienced volunteers, our neophytes would never get the training and direction that makes a successful and fun event. But what makes a crew leader and how did they get their red shirts?

In the Beginning

In the TC's early years, if you showed up for enough trail days and showed some aptitude for trail building, someone would eventually ask if you'd be a crew leader and hand you a red shirt.


Crew Leaders at Gazos Creek (click for larger image)
Crew Leaders at Gazos Creek (click for larger image)
Photo by Richard Allsop

You'd be encouraged to attend one of the joint trainings held by the TC and Midpenninsula Regional Open Space District (MROSD), in which you would learn something about the tools of the trade and the typical tasks of a crew leader.
      This ad hoc approach worked well enough for many situations, but it became painfully obvious that wearing a red shirt didn't always translate to a full set of trail construction skills and effective leadership, so the Crew Leader Training Committee was born. Its members worked hard to create the manual and formal training program that we use today. Prospective crew leaders (and current ones wishing to brush up) attend the two-day training seminars, consisting of a classroom session that covers terminology, basic concepts, safety, and leadership; and a field session for learning practical applications of both construction and leadership skills. Following the seminar, trainees launch into an apprenticeship program that stretches over multiple trail days. Trainees work under experienced crew leaders to hone their knowledge and check off a list of requirements that includes leading crews on their own under the guidance of a mentor. Once all the items on the list are checked off, we whoop it up and present the newly minted crew leader with a their own red shirt.
      Crew leaders and trainees, in addition to enjoying the camaraderie and the warm fuzzy feelings that come from making the TC run, get to participate in the occasional special projects that involve advanced technical skills such as bridge building, retaining walls, or challenging tread construction. They can also take part in "Crew Leader and Trainee Only" days - the first day on some new projects and may have opportunities to help survey a new trail project.
      Of course, not everyone who goes through the program becomes a crew leader, or even a trainee. Some participants in our seminars come from other organizations and want to apply the skills to their own projects. Some are more interested in improving their skills for more advanced work. Some, for reasons of their own, elect to become eternal trainees - willing to help lead in a pinch, but no less valuable because of their long experience.

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