Notice: I've taken a part-time job, and it's definitely affecting my blogging time. I'll continue to add content here as often as possible. Pertinent guest posts are always welcome.


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Volunteers and Appreciation from State Agencies

commentary by JHY based on emails from several volunteer leaders

Sometimes it's difficult to understand the reasoning of government agencies. North Country Trail volunteers provide hundreds of hours of manpower to maintain the trail on state-owned lands.

In Ohio, the DNR has re-asserted their rights to 47 miles of Miami-Erie Canal towpath. Volunteers are working hard to restore a treadway which will be off-road NCT. These work parties are allowed to camp for free at an Ohio state park. It seems to me that this is the model that makes the most sense. Everyone benefits from this type of arrangement. The state receives value in work accomplished, the volunteers feel appreciated, and everyone gains safe, usable trails.

In Wisconsin, volunteers may camp for free at Copper Falls State Park group camping during the trail work sessions. However, they must pay the park entrance fee. Only since last year has the Wisconsin DNR allowed volunteers to camp for free at the state forest Two Lakes Campground while maintaining trail nearby. It sounds like Wisconsin has been thinking about sensible solutions.

In Michigan, the situation is much worse. In the Upper Peninsula a volunteer group occupied three state forest campground sites for six nights. During that time the group built a bridge and did other trail maintenance work, often putting in more than eight hours a day. The group was charged $270 in camping fees.

In the lower Peninsula, there have been ongoing similar problems, charging volunteers to camp in order to do work which saves the state money. One particular incident pertains to the closing last year of the Pinney Bridge Campsite. The site was closed indefinitely when the DNR's money ran out (it has since been re-opened). The closure of that site effectively closed an entire section of the NCT to long-distance hikers since that site is the only place camping is allowed in the Jordan River Pathway. It also shut out the volunteers who had been camping there to maintain the Jordan River Trails.

At least one Michigan lawmaker has been notified of this situation.

How do you feel about the attitude of state agencies toward volunteers? Feel free to leave comments.

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