by Leanna Joyner, ATC's Program Director for Volunteer Relations
Outcomes from A.T. Volunteer Surveys
ATC’s Volunteer Relations program undertook the most comprehensive qualitative and quantitative survey of A.T. volunteers in the history of the Trail in 2020. Maintainers, leaders, and sawyers answered questions about training, skills, strengths, and challenges in each club.
In many ways, the survey validated what A.T. managers have long known: that section maintainers, working independently or as a couple, are essential to sustaining the Trail, as is the volunteer-led training structure.
The study of volunteers at all levels yielded the following recommendations:
- ATC should work with partners to offer available trainings to meet interest and identified needs. See the Executive Summary for more findings on needs.
- Work to ensure thatT. maintenance volunteers are trained consistent to minimum standards and there is a need to offer trainings to meet that need and the interests of the clubs.
- Assess opportunities for a central method for tracking A.T. volunteer training.
- Elevate awareness of A.T. volunteerism through orientation events that provide entry level skills as a component of recruitment. Such events are a great way to welcome new people.
- Maximize the opportunities to cross-club volunteer training across the A.T. club network.
- Retain the value and benefit of volunteer-led instruction to the vast network of A.T. volunteers.
Of the trailwide sawyer survey results, most A.T. sawyers are “B, bucking only” certified. Over half of all sawyers use their skills always or usually use their certification during a season of work on the A.T. The opportunities exist to maximize the function of existing trained saywers that make up the remaining 46%. Just more than a third of A.T. sawyers surveyed also apply their saw skills to work on other public lands, signaling an added benefit to recreation in the east and to these sawyers’ skills since this is an activity that improves with practice.
Coupled findings from listening sessions with club leaders also performed in 2020, ATC and management partners now have a benchmark to chart our collective course forward. Using the information this gathered this year as a springboard, we can all work toward greater network support in the form of training, Volunteer Leadership Academy, and shared stewardship of this beloved resource.