A Day at the Steward ‘Office’

October 28, 2019
Eduardo Gil
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference

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A Day at the Steward ‘Office’
Trail Conference Conservation Corps Trail Steward. Photo by Eduardo Gil.

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I like to think I have the best job in the world: stewardship!

Stewardship is the responsible use and active protection of our natural resources. The fundamental issue we face is that we have a shrinking resource compared to the number of users. Protecting hiking areas, habitats, and ecosystems requires advocacy, conservation, and stewardship. Conservation through acquisition of lands can remove immediate, acute pressures, but only through careful, prolonged stewardship can we hope to protect areas from subtle but pervasive pressures such as misuse, invasive species, and climate change.

I spend every weekend of a six-month span having the best “office” available to serve the community and the environment. As a second-year Trail Conference Summit Steward—with another two seasons of service as a Conservation Corps trail builder under my belt—I have a profound appreciation for preserving and conserving the environment that I enjoy for leisure. I have spent more than 200 days up on a Catskill peak educating hikers about Leave No Trace principles, doing maintenance, and conducting my own research on needed improvements. I’ve personally interacted with about 10,000 hikers. I’ve also encountered all kinds of weather, from heat waves to torrential rainfall, with beautiful days in between.

A typical day on the trail involves wearing plenty of hats. My first responsibility is making sure visitors are prepared for their hike, asking what their itinerary is in order to provide them with the information and education that will aid in their safe, enjoyable use of the trails. I’ll make recommendations if needed, particularly for those who are poorly prepared. My help isn’t always required, but I am happy to click the shutter of their cameras so they can freeze the moment in time when they hiked that trail. Sometimes I share knowledge about the environment they’re entering to help in their appreciation of the experience. Often times I walk the trails picking up litter that visitors have left behind, intentionally or not, and clear corridor from downed trees or overgrown vegetation, performing any TLC needed for the trail to be open and accessible. Other times I search for illegal camping sites and fire pits that violate the regulations of the region, make note of their location, and attempt to restore the area as if no one had been there. Included in my responsibilities are helping in any emergency situations, which can range from aiding an injured hiker to search and rescue operations, which are led by the region’s forest rangers.

My name is Eduardo. I am an advocate for conservation.

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