Coming from as far away as California and Arizona, 13 “Volunteer Vacationers” arrived in Westport to spend a week working on Champlain Area Trails (CATS) projects. The American Hiking Society’s Volunteer Vacation program supports people who spend their vacation in diverse locations around the country, building and maintaining trails.
CATS has hosted Volunteer Vacationers five times over recent years, providing accommodations and food in exchange for volunteers’ time and muscle. This session’s volunteers are staying at Camp Dudley in Westport for the week.
Under the supervision of CATS Trail Steward Bill Amadon, they will be creating a new trail linking the Split Rock Wildway and Coon Mountain trails, a distance of over two miles, by clearing the trail’s route and building stone bridges across small waterways. The trail should be open for public use before the end of the year.
The group includes retirees from fields such as teaching or law enforcement, as well as people currently employed in data management and other high tech occupations, a librarian, a registered nurse and others.
“The Volunteer Vacationers share their time and expertise and help us do work that would otherwise take us weeks if not months to complete,” said CATS Executive Director Chris Maron. “Plus, we get to introduce people from other areas to our neck of the woods, and many return for visits in the future. They are a terrific bunch of people.”
Volunteer Vacationer Zhuyun Gu, or “Z” as she likes to be called, is a civil engineer from Chicago, and a native of China. She came because “I live in the city, where it’s crowded and busy. I love to be in nature and this area is so beautiful. I also like to test myself a little bit and see what I can do. And I really like to meet people; they are all so friendly. This is a very good program.”
Champlain Area Trails (CATS) is a nonprofit organization that creates and maintains hiking and cross-country ski trails in the Champlain Valley, with the goal of linking communities, connecting people with nature and promoting economic vitality. CATS is also an accredited land trust working to conserve natural communities, farmland, clean water, and scenic vistas. Information on future CATS events and activities is available on the website at www.champlainareatrails.com and by following CATS on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Please call (518) 962-2287 for more information.