A Long History of Service on The Long Trail
James P. Taylor had a huge lightbulb hovering over his head, 107 years ago, when the vision of the Long Trail came to him atop the summit of Stratton Mountain. Born in 1872, James P. Taylor holds the fame for being the creator of the Long Trail and the progenitor of the Appalachian Trail. With an aim to “Make the Vermont mountains play a larger part in the life of the people,” Taylor rounded up a cadre of Vermonters who named themselves the Green Mountain Club. From border to border, Massachusetts to Canada, the 272 mile Long Trail was completed by 1930 and the Long Trail would go on to become the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the United States.
With the creation of the Long Trail Taylor established more than just a hiking trail. He established a community of passionate and driven volunteers, a community which still exists much the same here in 2017. Imagine the 1910 volunteers disappearing into the brush, sporting full wool with axes and crosscut saws in hand. Much of the same happens in this millenia. Time after time GMC volunteers head out into the woods to accomplish trail work on the Long Trail system.
As the VHCB AmeriCorps Outreach and Field Coordinator with the Green Mountain Club I am responsible for coordinating volunteer service trips with group users on the Long Trail System. From a 4th grade Waldorf School to Vermont’s best known producer of ice cream, the goal for every volunteer group is to “Make the Vermont mountains play a larger part in the life of the people.” I thoroughly enjoy being the one that provides the medium for that experience and it’s one of my favorite parts of my job.
June 29th, 2017 was one of the most meaningful volunteer service projects I’ve been on yet. Who’d have thought a group of 5 Real Estate Investment Advisors would be so good at trail maintenance? After meeting at Underhill State Park at 9AM we proceeded up the Sunset Ridge Trail, a 2.1 mile trail which ascends the west side of Mt. Mansfield. Our project was cleaning trail drainages and “brushing-in” social trails. When the trail diverges around a beautiful rock staircase, shortcuts up a switchback or disappears into the woods to avoid a muddy patch of trail a social trail is created. This widening and expansion of the trail treadway has a negative impact on trail erosion, soil stability and overall the local ecological system. Obscuring social trails with brush and forest debris helps to direct hikers onto the intended trail and prevent further negative impacts.
The 5 volunteers did an excellent job and developed a true respect and understanding for the efforts that go into trail design and maintenance. As Real Estate Investors they showed a strong appreciation for landscape health and community development, two principles which have direct connections to real estate and trail building. Overall, they were an amazing group of volunteers, connecting with the trail the same as it was done 107 years ago.