Tough Trail Work Builds Caring Community

Dave Ferraro, executive director of the Friends of Patapsco Valley State Park, believes in community. He and the Friends group have built an inclusive group of outdoor enthusiasts based on a love and appreciation of their time on the trail.

It’s easy to see why folks love Patapsco Valley State Park. The park, located near Baltimore, MD, spans 16,000 acres and runs 32 miles along the Patapsco River. Opportunities for recreation here are endless. You’ll find hiking, fishing, camping, canoeing, kayaking, horseback riding, mountain biking, and picnicking throughout the park’s 7 distinct areas.

Through projects organized by the Friends, Dave and his team of volunteers have spent thousands of hours maintaining and building trails in the park.

Stewards of the Trails: Maintenance and More

Volunteers include park users from all walks of life and those with all interests. You’ll find runners, hikers, paddlers, and others in the ranks. And the inclusive group is always looking for more advocates and volunteers.

“We have a very strong typical trail user community,” Dave said. “And we have taken our efforts to broaden that group and bring other voices to the table.”

The one thing that ties the diverse group together is their desire to give back to the park which lets them enjoy the activities they love.

“Community comes first,” Dave said, “then stewardship.”

The Patapsco Volunteers are in good company with community building. Learn more about the San Diego Hiking Club.

The community of volunteers with the Friends group are true stewards of the trail. Patapsco Valley has more than 200 miles of trails to explore, approximately 70 of which are maintained mostly by Friends volunteers.

“Volunteers learn the nuts and bolts of trail maintenance,” Dave said. “It’s a blend of art and science.”

The volunteers first go to trail building school, where they learn about sustainability, geography, terrain, trail contour, and more. Then they get their hands dirty and get down to business building and conserving the trails they love.

One example of the volunteers’ hard work? Learn more about their work at Garrett’s Pass.

What motivates the Friends group’s volunteers to do back-breaking labor in the park’s challenging terrain? They find working on the trail they use to find joy also brings joy.

“Folks find using the trail they built rewarding,” Dave said. 

“And for the swag,” he said with a laugh. Dave said the Friends group works with local businesses to make coveted t-shirts and provide other incentives for volunteers.

Agency and a Sense of Ownership

According to Dave, volunteers working with the Friends group like giving back because it gives them a sense of ownership over the park. 

“Our volunteers are people who use and want to use the park,” Dave said. “It gives them agency.”

They find knowing their efforts contribute toward the greater good and encourage more people to get outside and enjoy nature.

Dave’s advice for those who want to experience a similar sense of joy and ownership is simple. He encourages those who use parks and trails to find ways to give back. 

“Don’t just be a user of parks and trails, become a steward,” Dave implored. “Reach out to park management and invested user groups and think about how you can give back. It will only make your experience at the park better.”

Looking for more ways to get outdoors? From the hammock experience to exploring why you should hike in the dark, find more encouragement to enjoy nature from BivWack Outdoors. Learn more about us and our mission to get more folks outside.