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By on August 10, 2021 in News, Newsletter

Dave Fleischman 

Dave Fleischman started volunteering for OVLC two years ago. Today, he has increased his volunteer involvement with the organization by taking on maintenance of volunteer tools and becoming a volunteer trail crew leader. OVLC Land Steward, Linda Wilkin, sat down with Dave to talk about his time working on trails and volunteering with OVLC. Here’s what Dave had to say: 

Q: How long have you been doing trail work and how long have you been volunteering for the OVLC? 

I started doing trail work in 1992 (29 years ago!) on the Appalachian Trail and I’ve been doing it ever since. When I moved out west, I began working on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). I started out as a crew member, becoming a crew leader, and then a section chief on the PCT. I’ve been volunteering with OVLC for the past two years. I live in Oak View and wanted to give back to the community in some way. 

Q: What got you into working on trails? 

In 1991, I through hiked the Appalachian Trail. After finishing the hike, I thought about all the maintenance that had to get done on the trail. I’m a hands-on kind of person, and I like getting in the dirt, and so I got in touch with the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference and asked if I could help. They said to me, “I have a waitlist for people who want to adopt a section of the trail, but because you are a through hiker you have more buy in.” They ended up giving me a five-mile section of trail that I was to scout and do basic maintenance on. I remembered hiking that section on my through hike. It was in the morning and the plants were soaked by the morning dew, and the trail was overgrown. By the time I got through that section, I was soaking wet. My goal was to improve it for future hikers. 

Q: What do you love most about doing trail work and volunteering? 

What I love most about volunteering is meeting and working with new people. I often hike Gridley Trail. Along with many OVLC volunteers, I put a lot of hours into fixing that trail. Gridley used to be in pretty bad shape, and the work we did was a huge improvement. Trail work, unlike teaching middle school (which I did for 15 years), gives you instant gratification. At the end of a day working on a trail you can see the work you did and know that your time was well spent. Even today, when I hike certain sections of the PCT, I can see rocks and other drainage work that I placed 10 years ago. It is very gratifying to see the success of the work that I did, years later. 

Dave working on one of the foundation of the Allan Jacobs Bridge

Q: Do you have a favorite trail on OVLC land? 

My favorite trail is Fox Canyon Trail on the Valley View Preserve. I usually do the loop that includes Fox Canyon Trail and Luci’s Trail, but I love Fox. 

Q: What is your definition of a sustainable trail? 

Sustainability depends on the users. If the trail is going to be used by stock and equestrians, then the clearance needs to be greater than if the trail only permitted hikers or bikers. The tread has to be sustainable too. It has to be wide enough and sloped properly. When I work on trails where I am re-benching, I’ll put in what is called a “full-bench.” I know the trail is going to get narrower as time goes by, but by putting in a full-bench, which requires cutting the full width of the tread into the hillside, the trail will be more durable and last longer. 

Q: Why is trail work important for the environment and enjoyment of users? 

If hikers are fighting to get through brush, they are probably not going to want to hike that trail again. Similarly, the best way to keep users on your designated trail is to make sure the trail is usable and sustainable – otherwise people are going to create social trails and cut switchbacks. 

Q: What would you tell someone who’s thinking of volunteering for trail work? 

I would say definitely do it! You’re going to meet amazing people since trail volunteers are the best people. Everybody may have a different reason for volunteering, but by the end of the day you’ll bond over the work you’ve accomplished. You’ll make new friends and you might just get bitten by the bug…By that I mean you will want to do more of it like I’m doing now. Currently, I’m helping OVLC with the maintenance and repair of their tools. Having good tools and taking care of them is important. The first time I went out on an OVLC work trip, I didn’t bring my own tools because I didn’t think I would need them. However, I had to work harder because the tools weren’t sharp nor in good condition. Up until just a couple months ago, I would always bring my own pick mattock and my own McLeod because I knew mine would give me the best results with the least amount of effort. The other issue is that people can get hurt if tools aren’t maintained well, especially axe heads or sledgehammers. Working on the PCT, we would have a tools weekend; a group of us would gather at someone’s house, camp in their yard, and spend the weekend sharpening tools! I learned how to use various sharpening tools which was really valuable. I’m happy I can bring my experience and skills to support OVLC. 

Q: Why should others become volunteer trail crew leaders? 

Being a trail crew leader is rewarding because you get to train trail stewards. A successful volunteer trail crew leader also helps the volunteers have ownership of their work. For example, on the PCT the trail leader would scope out the work that needed to be done, and make sure the volunteers had the correct tools to complete the job successfully. Other important roles of the volunteer crew leader include making sure trail reports are standardized. Little details like this make a huge difference. 

Lastly, when you are out doing trail work, hikers come by and are very thankful and grateful for the work you’ve been doing. 

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