An AmeriCorps program connecting service members and under-resourced communities throughout Washington state
My name is Gillian and I am an Americorps member serving as a Trailhead Ambassador Associate at the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust through the Washington Service Corps. The Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust works to conserve the 1.5-million-acre landscape of the Mountains to Sound Greenway National Heritage Area by convening multiple interest groups to catalyze action on important environmental restoration, recreation, and education projects. The Trailhead Ambassador Program is a response to a need for increased educational opportunities for a growing population of trail users.
A Seattle Times article noted that in 2018, over 940,000 Seattle residents (40% of the total population) said they had been hiking that year, impressively doubling the number of hikers reported in 2008. The Snoqualmie Corridor is a popular destination for hikers due to its proximity to the Seattle metropolitan area and the many hikes in the corridor which can be accessed year-round.
The ideal scope of service for the program is to engage with trail users at trailheads to provide information about regional recreation, as well as to teach them about the principles of Leave No Trace. Through thoughtful, inclusive interactions with recreationists of all types, the Trailhead Ambassador Program can create a community of environmental stewards who help to care for the trails on which they recreate.
Though my service term has not looked quite how I thought it would due to restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been able to contribute to a valuable program that will thrive in the future thanks to the innovative and adaptive ability of our team to create a framework that will serve for years to come. Since we are currently unable to recruit volunteers and train them in person to become Trailhead Ambassadors, we are working on a virtual training system so that volunteers can learn about the opportunity and train online. This online training system will be a useful tool not just this year, but in subsequent years, so that volunteers are not limited to a one day, in person training, but rather can train at their own pace at home. With this ability, we can recruit and initiate volunteers throughout the season and have an even bigger cohort of environmental stewards. The past few months of service have taught me to be adaptable, creative, and to persevere through many obstacles for a cause that is dear to my heart.