PEC Trail Stewardship Program
In early 2002, the Pennsylvania Equine Council (PEC) initiated its Trail Stewardship Program (TSP). Our actions were in response to what the trail riding community has heard over the last several years about the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) shutting down access of the game lands to users other than hunters as well as declining conditions of recreational trails on other lands that lead to closures. The customary use of trails on game lands as well as our State Forest and State Parks has become a part of many of our lives. We have been able to enjoy the forests and watch wildlife while enjoying our time with our personal equines of choice. With close to 500 separate pieces of game lands, totaling 1.7 million acres scattered throughout Pennsylvania, it is difficult for many to ride for any length of time, without having to cross through a piece of game land to access other public or private land.
We must realize that the Pennsylvania Game Commission was legislatively created and is the only agency charged solely and specifically with the following: Protecting, conserving and managing the diversity of wild birds and wild mammals and their habitats; provide wildlife related education, services and recreational opportunities for both consumptive and non-consumptive use of wildlife, and maintaining and promoting Pennsylvania’s hunting and trapping heritage.
There has been a lot of misinformation on this issue, and over the past several years we have begun to make headway toward the resolution of this complex situation among user groups and the different agencies. We believe that education is the key to a good relationship between those in control of public land and the recreational public. Most trails that we enjoy on public land are user generated, which means they were never laid out with any thought of sustainability, only cut in and used.
In light of regulations passed by the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the increased interest in development of good sustainable non-motorized multi-use trails by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, DCNR, (State Forest and State Parks) 2.4 million acres, and the Allegheny National Forest, 500,000 acres, for their long range plans, the PEC Trail Committee has initiated the three phase Trail Stewardship Program. Pennsylvania is now showing more interest in recreation and tourism, thus we need to be more concerned about the infrastructure of our trail systems.
Phase One – Volunteer Coordinator/Agency Personnel
Three-day trail stewardship workshops are offered in Central Pennsylvania combining concepts and practical application of effective trail design and maintenance. We find classroom instruction and site work where participants actually layout and construct a section of viable non-motorized, shared use trail is a well accepted approach. Participants in the workshops include Land management personnel from the Game Commission, DCNR, National Forest and private lands open for recreation and volunteers from PEC chapters, saddle and riding clubs, the mountain bike community, and hiking groups. In the workshops, these groups meet, learn and work together establishing the kind of working relationship needed for shared trail stewardship. This training has been met with overwhelming acceptance. Because of the limited number of participants that can effectively be accommodated at such trainings, several trainings will be offered to attain the goal number and maintain a good complement of agency personnel and PEC Trail Stewardship Coordinators.
Phase Two – Regional Stewardship Training
In the second phase, the trained PEC Trail Stewardship Coordinators, who have now been prepared to work with agency personnel, return to their respective regions to coordinate local/regional stewardship groups and assist the trail committee in the training of these groups. In this way, the continuity of the program is preserved. Local trainings are one or two days long, and scheduled as needed to fit demands and work schedules.
Two-Day Packing trainings for safely using pack stock with tools and materials such as gravel and pipe needed for trail maintenance are also conducted.
In order to offer a holistic approach to the stewardship education process, Gwen and Bud Wills have completed a “Leave No Trace” Masters Course for people who actively teach others Outdoor Skills & Ethics for backcountry and front country horse use. These holistic concepts can now be offered to local PEC stewardship groups, riding clubs, and outdoor enthusiasts.
Phase Three – Outreach
Phase three consists of out reach programs. To support the work being done by the Stewardship Groups, Outreach programs have been developed in the form of one hour to one-day trainings in Leave No Trace skills and outdoor ethics, trail update programs, trail riding as well as packing and pack stock programs. These are available to PEC county chapters, saddle clubs and for various Horse Expos throughout the state. By incorporating sound trail layout and management practices, as well as outdoor ethic principles and good equestrian skills into presentations throughout the year, our presentations promote understanding, natural resource conservation and cooperation between agencies and trail user groups.
We will also be offering Trail Stewardship and “Leave No Trace” principles to the PEC Youth and 4-H Horse Programs.
What Can You Do?
The situations that arise from various land use conflicts have not developed over night, and it is not going to be resolved in a short time. The Trail Stewardship Program is available but the most important ingredient is YOU!!! The Pennsylvania Equine Council is a volunteer organization, and we need good folks like you – who care about your animals and the great outdoors you enjoy – to get involved. We need your input and your help to be able to effect trails in your area. Everyone is not in a position to do some of the things outlined in the descriptions of the Trail Stewardship Program, but support in many areas is needed. If you can make coffee or phone calls, help on a trail, spread information or just tell a friend about a “Leave no Trace” or other training that a local saddle club may be hosting, you will have helped. When we all do just a little, it will lighten the load.
As stated earlier, these types of programs have worked in other states and can and must work here if we plan to continue to ride in Pennsylvania. There is no reason to send the tourist dollars to neighboring states or have to go out of state ourselves.
Where do you or your friends ride? We are in the process of identifying individuals or groups who ride in these regions whether it is Game Lands, State Forest, State Parks, or National Forest. If you have been involved in this type of trail maintenance in the past, don’t assume we know about your work. We have many new volunteers who are helping to identify people and matching them with stewardship projects in the areas where they ride. Please be patient. Pennsylvania Equine Council is a volunteer organization so most who are involved have family, jobs and stalls to clean.
Tax-deductible contributions from individuals, clubs and user groups can be made out to the Pennsylvania Equine Foundation (a 501C3 non-profit organization). Clearly label the contribution for the PEC Trail Stewardship Program.
Mail to: Pennsylvania Equine Foundation
6059 Allentown Blvd #249
Harrisburg, PA 17112
Your contributions are tax deductible and can also be used to secure matching grant monies to continue this vital educational program.
PEC Trail Contacts
State Trail Chair:
235 Mule Lane
Summerville, PA 15864
2058 South Forge Road
Palmyra, PA 17078