UNION COUNTY, NJ - Union County’s volunteer Trail Stewards are hikers, bird watchers, nature lovers, equestrians and just about anyone else who enjoys being outdoors and giving back to the community. You can join in the fun and camaraderie by coming to the Trail Steward/Adopt-a-Trail orientation meeting on Saturday Oct. 31, at the Trailside Nature and Science Center, in the Watchung Reservation at 452 New Providence Road, Mountainside.

“Our Trail Stewards are highly valued members of the volunteer community who help preserve a beautiful, unique resource in our densely populated area,” said Freeholder Chairman Mohamed S. Jalloh. “If you’re familiar with our rustic trails and bridle paths, you know how much damage they suffered last summer after a spate of storms, and volunteer help is needed now more than ever.”

Hiking trails are a popular feature in a number of Union County parks, such as Watchung, Lenape and Rahway River Parkway. Watchung also has miles of bridle paths associated with the County’s public Watchung Stable in Mountainside.

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The orientation meeting begins with light refreshments and a special “beginner” session from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., only for persons interested in becoming a Trail Steward.

Participants are invited to stay for Sustainable Trails, a hands-on workshop immediately following the beginner session, from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. This event is also open to current Trail Stewards (current Trail Stewards are asked not to arrive before 10:30).

Among the topics, workshop participants will learn about the factors that help trails resist erosion, misuse and deterioration.

Sustainable Trails will be hosted by Ama Koenigshof, a noted trail restoration expert with the New York – New Jersey Trail Conference, who has worked on various trail projects in 14 different states.  She currently manages the Trail Conference’s Bear Mountain, Trail University and Conservation Corps programs, and acts as technical assistance to trail volunteers.

Union County Trail Stewards volunteer to “adopt” a section of trail for two years or more, as desired. They remove litter, do minor pruning, remove invasive vegetation, clear drainage pipes and re-mark trails when needed. 

Volunteers who can’t make a two-year commitment are welcome to join a Trail Work Day. These are one-day work parties conducted by the Union County Adopt-a-Trail program, generally held on the first Saturday morning of each month from March through December.

Pre-registration for the Orientation Meeting on October 31 is required, by contacting the Union County Department of Parks and Recreation at 908-789-3683 or bkelly@ucnj.org.

Weather permitting, part of the meeting may be conducted outdoors and participants are advised to dress accordingly.

For more information about Adopt-A-Trail and Trail Stewards visit ucnj.org/parks-recreation.