I am Kathleen Walker, of Walker Trails. I retired from the Forest Service after 30 years, spending most of my time on the Mt Hood National Forest managing recreation, wilderness and trails on the west side of the Forest. I worked with my trail crew to build, reconstruct and maintain over 1,000 miles of trails. The Forest Service trails budgets were limited, so we relied on building partnerships with user groups, recruiting volunteers and youth trail corps, and writing many grants to accomplish hundreds of trail projects. My favorite part of the projects was working with our partners and hiking or riding the finished trail!
How Can We Help on Your Trail Project?
Walker Trails focuses on hike and/or mountain bike trail projects in the Portland-Metro/Mt. Hood area. In addition to trails on the Mt. Hood National Forest, I have helped the City of Sandy plan and construct new trails around our town. That work is ongoing. It is so rewarding to hear how welcome these trails are to community members. Trail planning, grant writing, and trail building is a labor of love that brings together a diverse group of folks to make something special - a lasting legacy!
Many public land agencies have long relied on professional trail construction contracts to accomplish projects. As available funds shrank, new trail projects were limited. As a result, user groups stepped forward to help accomplish some of the trail work with limited funds. A new "hybrid" approach was developed that involves an experienced trails planner doing the trail design, because like the real estate axiom, the key to a sustainable trail is location, location, location. The trail planner works with the users to define a trail design narrative for the desired trail user experience and then works with the landscape to highlight unique features, protect sensitive areas, and ensure sustainable use of the trail.
Ribbon cutting on Tickle Creek Trail in Sandy, Oregon
Once trail planning is complete, the next step is securing funding, which usually involves a combination of grants, volunteer labor, donated agency staff time, and can include donated equipment, hosted youth corps like Americorps or Northwest Youth Corps, and donations. Accomplishing a trail project with so many complexities is more challenging than a straight trail contracting process, but far cheaper and definitely more rewarding. Once funding is secured, it can help pay for an experienced equipment operator and a project manager and/or trail crew leader to oversee the volunteers to brush out the flagged trail, followed by the equipment that excavates the trail tread. Volunteers can then do the trail finish work and install signs. Having a project manager/crew leader to keep everyone in the loop and on the same page, is important. They can interact with land managers, user groups, volunteers, equipment operators, and other partners and can also deal with the inevitable glitches that come with every project. I worked with both traditional contracting and "hybrid" trail construction approach. I believe the hybrid model is more cost-efficient and rewarding for partners. Most importantly it builds a sense of long-term stewardship for the trail.