The Appalachian Trail Conservancy Refines and Revamps their Volunteer Program

By PNTS staff & Leanna Joyner, Appalachian Trail Conservancy

A volunteer clearing the footpath and the new Appalachian Trail

A volunteer clearing the footpath and the new Appalachian Trail

With the launch of its last strategic plan in 2020, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) embarked on a mission to make volunteer service open to all.

The organization took on several projects to reduce barriers to volunteer activities, expand volunteer training, and strengthen communication and volunteer relationships.

To improve accessibility, the ATC updated their volunteer activities search page to help people find opportunities based on the volunteer experience they want to have. To compliment this, they have developed a monthly newsletter that invites volunteers to service opportunities.

ATC has also expanded their volunteer training. ATC has long published printed materials like A.T. Design Construction and Maintenance, and the A.T. Fieldbook. They have now moved trainings online through a series of essential trail maintenance videos and updated the curriculum for Foundations of Trail Maintenance, their training resource for volunteers, into digestible modules to establish a consistent curriculum.

To foster even more support for the development of the new training curriculum, ATC invested in a Technical Trail Specialist to support bringing in new volunteers and to offer enrichment training for existing volunteers. The ATC also offers field-based experiences for like-identity and intact groups to learn new skills and gain confidence in Appalachian Trail volunteerism.

Finally, to strengthen their overall relationships and communications with volunteers, the ATC invested in a market analysis of volunteers to identify volunteer needs. With this improved understanding, ATC is more precise with its efforts to convert basic awareness of the Appalachian Trail into stewardship, and to convert active volunteers into leadership roles. Having the foundation of the market analysis led to improvements to ATC’s website in the area devoted to partners and volunteers and served as a launch pad to update the Appalachian Trail Volunteer Visual Identity. Through a highly participatory process between ATC and volunteers, they landed on an image that reflects the “onward and upward” virtue that their dedicated volunteer community is known for.

“We brought a multi-faceted approach to inclusion and equity in the A.T. volunteer program arena because we know that disenfranchisement can happen through multiple systems,’ said Leanna Joyner, ATC Senior Director for Partnerships and Trail Operations. “By addressing access through technology, training through multiple means, improved invitations, and an updated brand, we aim to actualize our commitment to everyone belonging on the Appalachian Trail and in our stewardship community.”