Volunteer Service Agreements (VSAs) are required for volunteers to work on federal lands. They provide authorized Appalachian Trail volunteers certain protections for workers compensation and tort claims under programs managed by either the U.S. Forest Service (Volunteers in Forests) or the National Park Service (Volunteers in Parks).
Trail clubs with A.T. maintenance sections on USDA Forest Service lands have VSAs with their Forest Service partners, and some Trail clubs may have similar agreements with state agencies.
Since 1983, an umbrella agreement between NPS-APPA and ATC has covered Trail club members who work on NPS lands or state or municipal lands. However, that agreement is outdated and is legally questionable, as it does not reflect the terms of the current cooperative agreement signed between NPS-APPA and ATC in 2014.
In October 2016, the Stewardship Council set up a task force to look at VSAs and make recommendations so that all A.T. volunteers are working as authorized and are protected by an appropriate agreement. This topic will be discussed at the Regional Partnership Committee meetings in March. It was also the subject of a webinar held on February 27. A recording of the webinar will be made available.
We anticipate in-depth discussions as we work to refine these agreements and how they are implemented.
ATC is hosting a number of webinars in 2017 for Trail clubs and partners. Use this link (http://bit.ly/2ktRYyE
) to register or to receive recordings of any of the webinars.
Volunteer Service Agreements [was held Feb. 27 - a recording will be available]:
This webinar highlights the history and function of Volunteer Service Agreements (VSAs). It includes the role VSAs play for agency partners, A.T. clubs, and ATC and efforts underway to update agreements.
Training & Risk Management (Mar 23 at 6:30 p.m.):
This webinar will highlight the approach some clubs take to managing risk, provide a platform for clubs to share the types of trainings they provide to new volunteers, and provide information on a new operational leadership training that is available to clubs.
Best Practices: Leading New Volunteer Groups (April 20 at 6:30 p.m.)
: This webinar will bring into focus the best-practices of clubs who regularly work with larger groups of largely unskilled new volunteer labor. It will highlight how work projects are selected, how day-of management of the work is organized, and wisdom gained through practice of introducing new people to trail work.
Next Generation Advisory Council: Bringing New Audiences to Your Club (May 11 at 6:30 p.m.):
In this webinar we'll get to hear from members of ATC's Next Generation Advisory Council
on their recommendations clubs and ATC on reaching, inviting, and welcoming new audiences to explore, learn, and volunteer.
Volunteer Recruitment (June 15 at 6:30 p.m.)
: This webinar will highlight volunteer recruitment tools, strategies and technology used within ATC and its clubs as well as sharing national best-practices and trends in volunteer recruitment.
Safety Awareness and Guidelines
Outdoor Activity Safety Guidelines have been approved by the Policy Council of the New York–New Jersey Trail Conference (NY-NJTC). The guidelines were developed by a risk management task force to heighten awareness and help assure the safety of leaders and participants in outdoor activities, including trail work. The goal is to keep everyone safe by reducing risk as low as reasonably practical without adding burdensome requirements.
The task force was chaired by Bob Fuller and included Chris Reyling, Peter Kubat, and John Magerlein. They researched safety programs of various outdoor agencies including the National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Appalachian Mountain Club, Student Conservation Association (SCA), NY-NJTC Conservation Corps, and New York State Excelsior Conservation Corps. Three task force members also participated in National Park Service operational leadership training.
The approved draft is posted here
. Once final formatting and minor changes have been been made, ATC will post the guidelines on the Trail Maintainers Library page of the Toolkit for Trail Clubs
. Other Trail clubs may want to use the guidelines as a reference source on the potential hazards of various activities and recommended safety precautions.
Safety awareness, job tasks, and their associated hazards are important considerations for all of us. In the coming months, ATC will be seeking review and comment on volunteer job descriptions and job hazard analyses as part of reviewing and updating Volunteer Service Agreements.
80th Anniversary of the Completion of the A.T.
This August will mark the 80th Anniversary of the completion of the Appalachian Trail in 1937. The last section of the Trail to be completed is located in Carrabassett Valley, Maine, and is marked by a bronze plaque on a high ridge between Sugarloaf and Spaulding Mountain.
It is logistically difficult to hike to this location on a day hike. However, at the ATC Maine 2017 Conference this August, special Anniversary hikes will be offered that will make visiting this spot a little easier.
Come to the last “biennial” to celebrate the 80th Anniversary of the completion of the A.T. at Colby College, August 4-11, 2017, www.atc2017.org
. Registration opens May 1.
Stealth Camping Can Lead to Stealth Fire Risk
By Tony Barrett, Maine Appalachian Trail Club
A frequent task for trail maintainers is to dismantle makeshift fire rings at "stealth" campsites and within established campsite as they sprawl out. These unauthorized and often illegal fires result in rock rings that are unsightly, accumulate trash, and encourage tree cutting. However, simply placing a ring of stones to contain a campfire does not eliminate fire danger – especially in the dry conditions we experienced last summer.
Maine A.T. Club volunteers came across this fire ring at a “sprawl" tentsite on the fringe of the Nahmakanta Stream campsite in September. Even after a hard rain the night before, this fire had smoldered in the dry duff and was growing out underneath the fire ring, which did little to contain the spread of the fire below the surface. It took about 5 gallons of water to completely extinguish the glowing and spreading embers.
Photos by Tony Barrett. Mike Ewing and Ray Ronan (yellow hat) are pictured.