Submitted by Janice Clain
After the forced suspension of the program in 2020, the Maine Trail Crew is gradually returning to its pre-pandemic model based on a paid staff supplemented by volunteers. Due to COVID restrictions, the Trail Crew operated in 2021 as two four-person paid teams and completed most of the projects originally scheduled for both the 2020 and 2021 seasons. With the loosening of pandemic limitations, MATC hired a four-person professional crew supplemented by a base camp coordinator. The Maine Trail Crew Committee considers itself fortunate that four of last season’s paid staff were so satisfied with their experience that they enthusiastically hired on for another season, and they have welcomed this season’s volunteers, four per week, who have chosen to give from one to six weeks of their time to work on the AT in Maine.
Crew Leader Matt Kusper, hails from North Carolina. After thru hiking, he worked with trail crews in a number of locations before coming to Maine in 2021. He benefited from Lester Kenway’s trail construction training, and has been eager to share his expertise with his teammates and with volunteers. Jared Clough, from New Hampshire, was happy to hear last winter that Matt planned to return to Maine, and he joined the crew as Assistant Leader. Noah Korpi grew up in Minnesota and joined the Maine Trail Crew for the 2021 season. While working grooming ski trails in Colorado last winter, he, too, responded to messaging from MATC and decided to spend another season working in Maine. Dylan Flewelling joined the crew this season, and quickly adapted to the team. He is from central Maine and is a student at Colby-Sawyer College, in New Hampshire. The team is supported by Rob Cusimano, from Alabama, the fourth member of the 2021 team. While he enjoyed the physicality of trail work last summer, he has found his niche as Base Camp Coordinator. His job includes providing food for the crew and volunteers, at base camp and the work site, coordinating communications between MATC and Lake George Regional Park officials, (where the crew is housed), promoting MATC’s image in the Skowhegan community, and supporting the volunteers who supplement the crew each week.
The Maine Trail Crew is housed this summer at the Lake George facility where they meet in the “Dance Hall,” which was once a social center for the park, and sleep in wall tents. MATC has negotiated an arrangement that includes a modest rental fee and help with constructing trails in the park. Staff and volunteers have access to the recreational facilities in the park and to social opportunities in the greater community. Club member, Patty Harding, has lent several canoes and kayaks for MATC use.
The professional crew met for training with Lester Kenway in mid-May. Their first projects as a team were in Baxter State Park. In late June they welcomed their first volunteers and quickly adapted their routine to include basic training in use and safety measures with tools and techniques for building trail infrastructure. They have also incorporated weekly de-briefings post-project, listening to volunteer comments and recommendations, intent on improving the program and the volunteer experience. All volunteers were interviewed and informed of expectations by Club Coordinator, Holly Sheehan, prior to signing on to participate.
Projects for the Trail Crew for the rest of the season, until the end of September, include six weeks on Third Mountain and three weeks each on West Peak of White Cap, Rainbow Lake, and Nahmakanta Stream.
The Maine Trail Crew Committee includes Brad Deane, Janice Clain, Ethan Duffany, Margaret Snell, Michaela Schoeffler, and Patty Harding, with leadership from co-chairs Bruce Grant, who handles lodging and transportation logistics, and Sue Lussier, who manages all personnel issues. Club Coordinator, Holly Sheehan, ATC Regional Resources Director, Paige MacGregor, and ATC Field Coordinator, Blake Garrison, provide much needed program support.
Members of the Trail Crew Committee have scheduled site visits to each of the Trail Crew projects, but welcome club members who would like to see the crew in action and offer their support. Contact Holly Sheehan for information and when and where to find the crew and see the amazing work they accomplish.