This column shines a light on rising leaders in public lands and outdoor recreation who participate in PNTS’ Trail Intern Grants or Trail Apprentices Program.
Trail Intern Grants are distributed to help Trails nonprofits hire interns to further their missions and expand their capacities. The Trail Apprentices Program (TAP) is a career exploration program that helps up-and-coming and aspiring outdoor professionals aged 18-28 network and discover pathways to careers in trails or similar fields.
“Before working on the New England National Scenic Trail, I will admit, I did not know it existed,” says Trail Intern Lydia Jankowski. Though she had grown up hiking in New England’s White Mountains and had unknowingly hiked on several sections of the New England National Scenic Trail (NENST), Jankowski wasn’t aware of the 215-mile Trail that runs through Connecticut and Massachusetts until she applied to work as an intern with the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), one of the two nonprofit organizations along with the Connecticut Forest and Parks Association (CFPA) that co-manage the NENST in partnership with the National Park Service (NPS).
Jankowski was in her third year of studies in a dual major program for Sustainable Community Development and Communications at the University of Massachusetts Amherst when she was hired for a 9-month stint as an Outreach Assistant for the AMC in April 2021. She says that her work with the organization “wonderfully combined (her) academic passions” of outdoor recreation and communications.
In her first six months, Jankowski reached some noteworthy milestones. Serving as the AMC’s interim Communications Manager, she took on the duties of maintaining AMC’s social media accounts and writing the NENST’s bimonthly newsletter. She also coordinated the 2021 NET Hike Challenge to incentivize exploration on the Trail, as well as an initiative to help maximize fundraising efforts from individuals who subscribe to the NENST newsletter but were not members of either the AMC or CFPA.
Jankowski says the most exciting portion of her duties was when she was tasked with section hiking 150 miles of the NENST through the entire State of Massachusetts in order to conduct an Inventory Assessment. “Before this,” Jankowski explains, “we didn’t really have any documentation of how many bridges, water bars, puncheons, or other features (were on the Trail) or what condition they were in.” She said her work on the 19 sections of the NENST in Massachusetts included taking more than 500 data points to identify which sections of the trail were the highest priority for maintenance, as well as which trail sections were in the best shape.
Of her time spent as an intern, Jankowski says “It was a great experience” that helped her connect to the Trail on a personal and professional level. And, since the NENST actually bisects the city of Amherst where she currently lives, that connection to the Trail has translated to a stronger relationship to her community. “After a summer spent traversing the trail from the border of Connecticut to the border of New Hampshire and many more months virtually learning its ins and outs, I feel a much greater connection to the NENST, as well as the surrounding area that I live, work, and recreate in,” she says. What’s more, Jankowski’s work with AMC, CFPA, and NPS also helped her to forge connections with professionals in the outdoor industry, which she says has been “really valuable.”
Though her tenure with AMC ends in December, Jankowski says that her time spent as a PNTS Trail Intern stoked a naturalist fire in her that will continue in her professional life moving forward. She intends to graduate from her undergraduate program next year and immediately pursue a master’s degree in Regional Planning. “After this internship… I can definitely see my career heading into trail planning or conservation management,” she says. According to Jankowski, her work on the NENST has let her “explore different methods of bringing more people into the outdoors, and instilled in me the value of providing unfiltered pathways to adventure,” which is a great quality to see in a future outdoor leader.
PNTS is connecting more young adults to opportunities to explore careers in trails than ever before. Donate today to support PNTS programs in 2022. Make your gift at https://bit.ly/2ZABIVD