Field’s MATC membership card dates to 1956, when his volunteer work became “official.” The group of young men were assigned a 7.5-mile stretch of the A.T. on Saddleback Mountain, which Field maintained until 2016. (He notes this section is now divided into three sections and maintained by three new volunteers.)
Since 1967, Field has held various MATC officer positions, including club president and lands overseer. In addition, Field served 26 years on the board of managers of the Appalachian Trail Conference (now Conservancy), including as chair for six years.
In 2013, Field was inducted into the Appalachian Trail Hall of Fame for his work relocating 172 miles of the state’s 281 Trail miles. As a forester and former dean of the Forestry School at the University of Maine, Field felt the Trail needed to get off old logging roads and up onto the 10 high peaks it crosses today.
“Get people out there, see how much fun it can be to build a lean-to, build a trail, meet hikers.”
Protecting the Future
Currently, Field coordinates the work of all the corridor monitors for MATC, which oversees 307 miles of A.T. boundary. “That’s more than Yellowstone National Park,” Field notes. He is responsible for the training of monitors for 70 corridor assignments, who look for encroachments and work with other partners to maintain the Trail.
Field also has set a personal goal of photo-documenting all of the A.T. boundary monuments in Maine. Many are buried and difficult to find, while others are easily found using witness trees to triangulate their locations. Still others were never set, and some have disappeared, Field notes. He and other volunteers so far have photographed 85% of the boundary markers, with the goal of finding the others soon.
“These boundary monuments are important to the integrity of the lands and the Trail in Maine,” Field says.
Call To Action
When asked for his suggestions for recruiting new (and younger) volunteers to help monitor and maintain the Trail – a challenge many Trail maintaining clubs and the ATC face – Field expresses concern that many hikers do not understand how the A.T. Cooperative Management System works, and that too many people believe the Trail is maintained and monitored solely by National Park Service or other paid employees.
There are enough people who don’t understand how volunteers contribute to the Trail to “catch your attention,” according to Field.
“We need to get past that,” he says, noting that education can go a long way in helping Trail users realize they can contribute. “Several years ago, we realized MATC was just about invisible, so we embarked on efforts to raise the visibility of the club. Through various media outlets, including social media, we’ve been able to help people understand a little more about the club’s work,” Field says.
Other than education, Field suggests getting people out onto the Trail. “If you can get them interested enough to go out with you on the Trail, you can get them hooked,” he says, adding that the A.T. is a hands-on adventure. “Get people out there, see how much fun it can be to build a lean-to, build a trail, meet hikers. It’s not difficult to find folks who like to hike or like to be outside,” Field says.
“Obviously, don’t take them out in the height of black fly season,” he adds with a laugh.
An important part of engaging new enthusiasts is for Trail maintaining clubs to have well-defined responsibilities for volunteers so they can take ownership, Field notes. He believes many people who work in office jobs crave that sense of responsibility.
“Say you spend all week at your desk, then you get out on the Trail and clear a bunch of blowdowns or paint blazes or put up signs. That gives you a sense of accomplishment that appeals to folks who in their professions might not get to see those end results,” Field says.