Making Training Easier for Outdoor Volunteers

Published: Mar 29, 2017

By Sarah Schaier, Production Editor, UNH Cooperative Extension

If you’re in New Hampshire, you aren’t far from unspoiled land, forests or waters to explore. For many, these are special places to enjoy the natural world. But for a small army of dedicated volunteers, these are also places where they work.

Public trails need care to ensure they’re durable and safe. Conserved land needs to be monitored for proper usage and encroachments. Invasive plants, which threaten New Hampshire’s native species, need to be identified and removed.

Training volunteers for this type of work can be a challenge. Conservation groups, public agencies and towns often have little capacity to provide the needed education.

So, The Stewardship Network: New England, with the help of conversation groups in New Hampshire, has found a solution: Free online training guides that would make it easy and straightforward for anyone to organize a volunteer training workshop, learn best practices or simply brush up on their skills.

"When we reached out to other stakeholders, it was so clear that resources were stretched thin and people were frustrated,” says Stewardship Network: New England Project Manager and UNH Cooperative Extension Specialist Malin Clyde. “New Hampshire needs volunteers to help care for our land and waters—that’s why The Stewardship Network: New England exists. There was no doubt that something needed to be done to make volunteer training easier.”

The six training guides, which were funded in part by the NH Charitable Foundation, are available for download on The Stewardship Network: New England website. They are:

  • How to Lead a Nature Walk
  • How to Monitor Conservation Easements
  • Outdoor Skills for Conservation Volunteers
  • Workday 101
  • Trail Maintenance for Volunteers
  • Invasive Plants in the Granite State

The guides include instructor materials, videos, presentations, activities, sample agendas, volunteer handbooks and more. During production, each guide was reviewed by professionals and experienced volunteers to make sure the information was accurate and could serve as a comprehensive, go-to resource.

“Many conservation groups work on trails and each has its own trail maintenance and construction manual,” says Emily Lord, The Stewardship Network: New England’s outreach coordinator. “To make sure we collected the best information from all the manuals, we sought input from many different groups, from New Hampshire State Parks to the Appalachian Mountain Club, so that volunteers across the state can easily learn all the best practices for basic trail maintenance.”

To date, the guides have been downloaded 605 times by 243 organizations in 22 states and five countries, including the U.S., Canada, India, Kenya and Singapore. In New Hampshire alone there have been 364 downloads by 144 organizations and 40 people not affiliated with any group. Lord calls the response “overwhelmingly positive.”

The response has blown away our expectations,” she says. “I don’t think anyone expected the guides to be downloaded by people outside of New England and in countries as far away as Singapore and Kenya. I think it shows how much the guides are needed—not just in New Hampshire, but everywhere.”

Get the Guides

Photo captions (from top): (1) UNH Cooperative Extension's Emma Tutein leads volunteers in a compass activity for a recent easement monitoring workshop with Moose Mountains Regional Greenways in Milton, New Hampshire. (2) The free, online training guides include color photos, checklists, and sample documents you can print at home. (3) UNH Cooperative Extension's Emily Lord shares tips on the trail during a 2016 workshop on trail maintenance with volunteers in the town of Amherst, New Hampshire.