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Frequently Asked Questions about Trail Work Parties

Common questions about WTA's volunteer trail work parties

WTA crews welcome anyone interested in helping keep trails open, no matter your familiarity with trail work. But we know you might have a lot of questions when you're volunteering for your first time. See if we can answer them below.  

How much experience do I need?

None. We work hard to teach our volunteers the joy of trail maintenance. We hope by investing our time in teaching you trail maintenance you'll come back and join us again. Our work party rules are followed in this order:
1) Be safe!
2) Have fun!

3) Get some work done!

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Volunteering is a fun way to give back to trails, and you get a great sense of accomplishment. Photo from WTA archives. 

May I arrive late? Leave early?

Please come to a work party only if you can commit to a full day of volunteering (8:30am-3:30pm unless otherwise noted). If you can't spend the day with us, then please sign up for another day you can commit fully to.

Occasionally, we do have work parties that are shorter than the standard day, so keep an eye out for those.

How do I sign up to volunteer?

It's easy! Find a work party. Use the tabs across the screen to view work parties as a list, map or calendar. The search feature on the left side of the screen (at the top on a mobile device) allows you to filter work parties by region, type or date.

Click on any work party name to see details about what to expect. Use the Join Work Party button to complete the short registration form. You're all signed up!

What should I wear? What should I bring?

All volunteers should wear a sturdy pair of boots (no tennis shoes!), long pants and work gloves. It's recommended that you wear a long-sleeve shirt and eye protection (such as glasses, sunglasses or safety glasses) too.

In addition, bring rain gear, extra warm clothing, water and your lunch and snacks in a pack. If it's wintertime, check out these additional tips on how to dress for a winter work party.

We will provide you with a WTA hard hat and the tools you need.

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WTA also provides candy to volunteers, which is crucial to keeping you moving throughout the day! Photo from Todd Dunfield. 

Do I need to pay for a parking permit?

Nope! WTA will provide all volunteers with a day pass. In fact, you can even earn free passes by volunteering with us. Learn more about the benefits of volunteering.

What is the latest date that I can sign up for a day work party?

48 hours. Each work party is automatically removed from the schedule 48 hours before the work party is scheduled to begin. This allows our crew leaders to have adequate time to pick up tools, purchase pop and cookies and prepare for the project based on the number of sign-ups at that time. If you would like to sign up for a work party within this 48 hours, please call us at 206.625.1367 and we will determine if we can add another person to that particular work party.

Who will I be volunteering with?

Great people! Led by one of our skilled crew leaders, you’ll volunteer alongside fun folks from a variety of backgrounds. Guided by WTA’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, we strive to provide a welcoming and inclusive experience for each and every volunteer.

Are there any perks (incentives) for volunteering?

Of course! On every work party you'll enjoy the chance to meet new people and gain new skills. You can also earn free passes, community service hours and WTA milestone awards in appreciation for your dedication and hard work. Learn about the benefits of volunteering with WTA, and you can watch the video below to see what past volunteers have enjoyed most about their time on trail. 

Annual Northwest Forest Pass incentive

I have earned two (green) one-day passes. How do I exchange them for an annual pass?

When you come out on a WTA work party that is on Forest Service land (indicated in the schedule under the column titled “Free Pass”), the Forest Service recognizes your efforts by giving you a free one-day recreation pass. A WTA crew leader will give you this pass at the beginning of the work party. When you collect two of these green day passes, you can mail them to WTA and we will mail you one Annual Northwest Forest Pass. Please send your two green day passes and a self-addressed stamped envelope to: Washington Trails Association, 705 2nd Ave Suite 300, Seattle, WA 98104. Each volunteer can receive a maximum of one annual pass per year.

Annual Discover Pass incentive

I have received vouchers for 24 hours worked on state lands. How do I exchange them for an annual pass?

To learn how you can exchange your vouchers for an annual pass (as well as exclusions), visit the Discover Pass website. The intent of the program is for volunteers to receive a maximum of one pass per year.

Does WTA encourage or try to arrange carpooling?

Yes! We have an automated online carpool system. When you join a work party you will be encouraged to carpool. Simply choose one of these options: Willing to drive; Needs a ride; Willing to drive or ride. Then give a brief description of your ideal meeting point in the space provided (not in the comments section). This information will be sent to all people who sign up for your trip, along with your email address (we do not send out your phone number - so please provide a valid email). You will then be able to contact or be contacted by others interested in carpooling. Remember, if you are a rider, please be courteous and offer to chip in on the cost of gas!

Can I bring my kids on a day work party?

To participate in a WTA work party, youth must be age 10 or older. Anyone under the age of 18 must be signed in by their parent or guardian. Please download our parental consent form. Anyone under the age of 14 must be registered for the work party and accompanied by an adult. Or, you can learn more about WTA's youth programs.

Can I bring my pets?

Please do not bring any pets. We have found that pets can be a significant distraction and in some rare cases a safety hazard.

Can I bring a big group?

Yes, but if your group is larger than six people, please contact us at volunteer@wta.org or 206.625.1367 to make special arrangements. For some general guidelines for setting up a group work party, go here.

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WTA works year round -- we hope you'll join us out there! Photo from WTA archives. 

Do you still work in bad weather?

Yes - we do work rain or shine! However, there are rare occasions when we will cancel a work party due to inclement weather. The most common weather cancellations are due to wind, snow/ice and lightning. Most determinations are made at the trail-head at the beginning of the day by the crew leader or on the trail as conditions change. You will be notified by email or phone in the rare event that we cancel a work party the night before due to a forecast of extreme weather.

If weather conditions forecast for the work party are beyond your personal comfort level you are free to cancel from the work party.

Do you accept court-ordered community service?

Usually. But you must take the initiative to tell us in advance of your first work party so that we can help you appropriately track and confirm your hours for the court. We do not accept court-ordered hours for violent or aggressive offenses.  When you sign up for your first work party, indicate that you are fulfilling court-ordered hours and give the total amount of hours you wish to complete. The maximum amount of hours you can claim for any given day is 8 hours. If you need a letter documenting your service, please complete your service hours and request the letter at least two weeks before your deadline.

Should I bring my own tools?

No. WTA provides all the tools you need. The only tools you might consider bringing would be hand clippers or small folding saws. Please do NOT bring your own axes, machetes, etc. Our safety briefing at the beginning of each work party includes a comprehensive discussion of the safe usage of each tool. We cannot permit anyone to bring and use a tool not covered in our safety lecture.

Can I bring my chainsaw?

No. A special certification is required from land management agencies before anyone is allowed to use a chainsaw on their land. Any logging out of blowdown and felling of trees with a chainsaw will be taken care of by WTA staff or the land manager's hired personnel.

What is WTA's policy on firearms and weapons?

Volunteers are not allowed to bring firearms or weapons on a work party (regardless of whether they are licensed to carry a concealed weapon.)

What else do I need to I know?

For questions specific to backcountry trips, check out our pages about volunteer vacations, backcountry response teams or youth volunteer vacations. We also have packing facility work parties, which support the backcountry trips. 

If you have a question that we haven’t answered, please contact us at volunteer@wta.org or 206.625.1367.


Trail Work Under COVID-19 Protocols

 

Are you doing trail work?

Yes, we’re running work parties with increased safety measures and increased capacity from 2020. Depending on where you volunteer, different work parties will have different safety restrictions.

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Handwashing stations are just one part of our COVID-19 safety protocols. Photo by Barbara Budd.

What is WTA doing to keep us safe while on a work party?

We are implementing various enhanced protocols to ensure everyone’s safety while on a work party, such as social distancing, pre-screening participants, utilizing handwashing stations and hand sanitation. For more information, please review our full COVID-19 Safety Protocols.

Why does one work party have certain restrictions, while another work party doesn’t?

Depending on where you volunteer, different work parties will have different safety restrictions. We’ve aligned our protocols to follow Governor Inslee’s phasing plan.

How are you doing backcountry trips this year?

In 2021, we are running a full schedule of Backcountry Response Team (BCRT) trips, a reduced number of frontcountry-only volunteer vacations, and even some youth volunteer vacations!

We ask that if you are planning on attending a volunteer vacation, to limit yourself to one registration, to help make it possible for everyone who is interested has a chance to participate.

How do you decide to cancel/change a work party?

Cancellations may occur for a variety of reasons under COVID-19 conditions. Most cancellations occur due to land manager requests, inability to find a suitable alternative project or because it has been deemed too unsafe to continue under current conditions. We will do our best to supplement with an alternative plan where possible. 

Can I schedule a group work party?

Not right now. We’ve paused group volunteering opportunities for the time being.

Where do I find the liability waiver to sign?

We will send you an email with a link to our annual waiver 4 days before the work party start date. Please review and sign the waiver no later than 24 hours before the work party start date. 

Do I need to sign a separate waiver if I’m signed up for multiple work parties?

No. We now have an annual waiver, so you only need to sign it once per calendar year.

Can I carpool to the work party?

Currently, we're asking volunteers to drive separately or with only other members of their household to the work party.