Strengthening the Ways We Serve

November 01, 2019
News
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference

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Strengthening the Ways We Serve
Trail Conference Conservation Corps Palisades Trail Crew member building trails in Sterling Forest State Park. Photo by Tori Finn.

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When New York State began developing parks such as Harriman and Bear Mountain in the 1920s, passionate hikers seized the opportunity to lend their expertise to develop marked trail systems opening the outdoors to the general public. They felt a responsibility to care for the land, create trails, and connect people with nature. They came together and formed the Trail Conference, ensuring there would always be a stream of trained volunteers available to accomplish this important work.

In this tradition, the Trail Conference has responded to the needs of our land manager partners and the trail-using public by expanding our ability to serve. The formation of the Trail Conference Conservation Corps (TCCC) in 2013 has enabled the organization to place a force of well-trained trail builders and ecological stewards in the field full time, May through October. They receive a living stipend for their service and are eligible for AmeriCorps education awards through our partnership with The Corps Network. The Conservation Corps program bolsters our volunteer base by amplifying the number of leaders available to host new volunteers and cultivate more leaders. Since the program began, 130 AmeriCorps members have served through the TCCC, leveraging more than 3,000 volunteers in improving trails and parks. This year, our Steward Program was folded into the TCCC, adding another level of outreach and education to the program’s achievements.

Through this service, the TCCC provides vital resources to underfunded agencies responsible for the protection and accessibility of open space in the most densely populated region of the country.  Simultaneously, it has become a training ground for the next generation of environmental leaders, many of whom have gone on to work for park agencies at the local, state, and federal levels. In so many ways, this program embodies the Trail Conference’s mission, vision, and values. That’s why we applied for a grant through New York State to expand our Corps’ capacity and increase the organization’s impact. In July, we were awarded just over $1.06 million to support and strengthen the Trail Conference Conservation Corps. The contract extends over three seasons, which will allow us to not only support more boots on the ground, but also sufficiently build up the program’s infrastructure. This grant allows us to create better trail experiences for the public and a better service experience for our AmeriCorps members. It allows us to build on our success and celebrate our legacy of service in new and very exciting ways.

To learn how to serve through the TCCC as an AmeriCorps member or volunteer, visit nynjtc.org/ corps. Our thanks to the New York State Office of Children and Family Services and the New York State Commission on National and Community Service for believing in our program and granting us the funds to allow the TCCC to succeed.

Remember: The safest place right now is at home.