The Trail Companion
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)
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
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
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