by Matthew Davis
Working as a Regional Trail Coordinator for the NCTA is a very rewarding and fun job and the best part is that I get to work with volunteers who love the NCT, believe in the mission of the NCTA, and are fun to be around. I consider many volunteers I work with from Minnesota and North Dakota as friends.
I have often been asked “Is that your real job?” or “What do you actually do?” after telling people what I do for the NCTA. If I had a dollar for every time I have heard that, I would make a sizeable contribution to the NCTA’s Trail Protection Fund.
A typical day in the life of an Regional Trail Coordinator includes a variety of tasks…things like:
Administration for NCTA-sponsored Facebook pages
I am the administrator for NCTinND, NCTinMN, and the Arrowhead Re-route pages. Almost daily, I look across various Facebook sites (e.g. Minnesota DNR, environmental organizations, trail sites, etc) and in my email for interesting information to post on these sites.
Much of this is done via email. So, checking email is a constant throughout the day. Things that we communicate about include:
– Trail projects – e.g. new trail building projects, signage enhancements, etc.
– Necessary approvals for developing new trail segments or trail features
Responding to agency resource management projects in my region
There are two National Forests (Superior and Chippewa) and one National Grassland (Sheyenne) within my region of MN & ND. These units – particularly the National Forests – propose resource management projects that have the potential to negatively impact the NCT and the trail experience. Just imagine hiking through clearcut after clearcut.
There are also numerous State and County agencies that plan and implement similar resource management projects (e.g. timber sales, resource restoration projects, road classification, etc) that have the same potential to impact the NCT. These are tougher because the agencies differ in how they notify the public in advance of the project and how readily they accept our input.
Working on significant projects or events.
– My coordination of the Legacy grant-funded trail development project in the Laurentian Lakes Chapter’s trail section. This involved working with our agency partners, the National Park Service, NCTA Headquarters, and the Chapter to all keep things moving forward.
– My involvement in the planning of the 2014 Minnesota Hiking Celebration event in Duluth and, specifically, the promotion of the event within the region.
– My work on the NCT’s Arrowhead Re-route effort (part of the North Country National Scenic Trail Route Adjustment legislation that we’ve been pursuing for the last 10 years). I have been working with local units of government to obtain their support and also to encourage people (through our Chapters and partners in like-minded organizations) to contact their Representative and Senators and ask for their support for H.R. 799 / S. 403.
Providing Chapter & affiliate support in my region
A majority of my time is spent supporting the work of our Chapters and Affiliate partners – including the Border Route Trail Association and Superior Hiking Trail Association. The exact details of my role varies by Chapter/Affiliate but can include things like facilitating trail planning, conducting community outreach / marketing, planning and hosting events, volunteer management, etc.
I routinely get questions about certain segments of the NCT within my region. I do my best to provide the answers to hikers’ questions – either by sharing my knowledge or by passing the questions onto the appropriate individuals for their response. In general, awareness and use of the NCT is low so I take every opportunity to help encourage trail users to get out there onto the NCT and to have a good experience so they will share with their friends.
Just this past week, I was lucky to lead a small trail crew that mowed the NCT within Lonetree Wildlife Management Area and part of the NCT within the Sheyenne National Grassland in North Dakota. This work was vital because we don’t have a Chapter at Lonetree and the Dakota Prairie Chapter is focusing its volunteers’ attention on the new trail outside of the Grassland.