How I Got Involved

How I Got Involved

An RCTC volunteer shares his experience

By Chris Schuster

My first experience with the Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy came at the beginning of 2018. My wife and I had just moved back to the Pittsburgh area from Northern Virginia and her aunt proposed we join her for the upcoming Rachel Carson Trail Challenge. Of course, I knew who Rachel Carson was, but had never heard of the trail nor the 35ish-mile trail challenge that was held annually. I had done some moderate hiking and my wife was an avid runner, so we applied and were fortunate enough to be selected. We spent the spring training and successfully completed the Full Challenge. My interest in the event and the trail was piqued!

We were selected again in 2019, but regrettably had to withdraw due to a family wedding. Then COVID hit, putting an end to the 2020 Challenge. Our next opportunity came in 2021. Training was slightly more challenging as our daughter (4-months old at the time) and our newly adopted German Shepherd accompanied us on all our training hikes…both turned out to be tremendous trail-goers!

It was during the ’21 Challenge that I had the pleasure of hiking a section of the trail with Bob Reiland. Bob had just concluded his tenure as  President of the Rachel Carson Trails Conservancy (RCTC). He was still an active board member as well as a trail steward and member of multiple trail committees. He explained all about the organization, the work that went into preparing the trail for the challenge as well as maintaining the trail throughout the year. He told me, if I was interested, I should reach out to Donna Stolz, the RCTC Volunteer Coordinator.

Two weeks later I inquired about volunteer opportunities to help maintain the trail and as fate would have it, there was an opening for a trail steward on the section of the Rachel Carson Trail right out my front door! Mark Eyerman and Donna met me with a set of tools, hiked the section with me, and I’ve been stewarding ever since!

After two seasons of volunteering, it was announced that the Board of Directors had multiple vacancies and I decided to apply. I have 10+ years of experience working in natural resource management but being able to advocate for and have an impact on the resources my family and I utilize every day is profound. I love the Rachel Carson Trail Challenge and the conservation/preservation and dedicated volunteer efforts that make it all possible.

There are many other opportunities for volunteers to help our wonderful organization. Please consider reaching out to Donna Stolz, our Volunteer Coordinator if you want to learn more about what you can do to help.blaze10.png