The Sutro Stewards Trails Program hosted our 2023 Crew Leader Training program over the last week of October. Our training consists of a virtual session during the week that covers the logistics of trailwork and our volunteer work days, the attributes of an effective crew leader, and how we can work safely and effectively with the breadth of individuals that come to work with us. We talked through how to understand the parts of a work day and how to organize a morning’s work, whether our trainees process tasks with a regimented or hierarchical mindset or they approach them with a more organic or intuitive perspective. Regardless, those experienced in working on volunteer trail projects will know how surveying all the variables and being able to adapt to changing conditions is a critical skill.
The bulk of the training follows with a full field day. In this year’s training we added special emphasis in getting our crew leaders to think about the wide range of volunteers we work with and the challenges and opportunities that affords us. In a segment focusing on trail elements, we discussed the forces impacting trails, how we design trails, and their evolution with time and use. Absent in prior trainings, we felt it was important to introduce a segment on habitat instruction covering some of the more common species found trailside in our open space.
This year’s tool discussion put the focus on our trainees and getting them used to discussing and describing tool use - instructing safe and effective tool use is an essential skill in leading volunteer groups. In the final training segment, our trainees were divided onto two trails tasked with assessing a trail for projects and collaborating with each other to find solutions to improve their assigned trail. After hearing the project plans for the trail they didn’t inspect, trainees were reassigned to this new segment of trail to quickly assess tasks where they could put volunteers to work quickly at the start of the day, often one of the more challenging and chaotic parts of a work day. Last, trainees evaluated the critical elements of their planned project that needed to be completed by work day’s end as well as additional tasks they could assign volunteers if their crew smashed through the project faster than anticipated.
We were very excited to take our training in a new direction with the goal of teaching toward some of the higher level thinking skills important for leading volunteer trail work crews. We are hopeful that engaging our trainees more in this training will encourage the critical thinking necessary to evaluate trail projects and adapt alternate plans when the inevitable roadblock pops up. We are fortunate to have a strong group of experienced crew leaders, and the next step for our trainees is working alongside our experienced crew leaders to develop their technical skill set and hone their leadership with the support of these peer mentors. Before we know it, they will be mentoring a future class of trainees!