Rhinelander, Wis. (June 27, 2017) – Through a partnership agreement, military veterans are recording trails data on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. The project is in partnership with the non-profit group Veterans Trek of Milwaukee, Michigan Technological University and the U.S. Forest Service.
The veterans are conducting their fieldwork using handheld data recorders to inventory trail features such as bridges, culverts, interpretive signs and gates. They are taking photos of the trails and GPS locations of each feature along with recording the length of the trail.
This information is being entered into the Electronic Trail Assessment and Condition Survey (e-TRACS) in which the Forest Service uses to streamline the process for recording and keeping trails data current and accurate.
“The data collected is also helpful in identify trail maintenance needs and updating the Forest’s geographic management system so we have accurate maps of the trails across the Forest,” said Melissa Simpson, Acting Lands and Recreation Program Manager on the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.
Staff from the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest met with the Veterans Trek members to discuss how the work they are doing contributes to the overall data management of the trail system and work on the trails themselves.
“The work this group is performing is above and beyond what our staff has the time and capacity for,” said Simpson. “If it weren’t for these volunteers, this valuable work would not be accomplished”.
Forest staff also took the time to discuss career opportunities in the Forest Service and how to apply to Forest Service jobs that may interest them.
Most of the work the volunteers perform includes hiking and visiting popular recreation trails on the Forest.
“There is great healing potential in nature, and in being outside and not isolating yourself,” said Veterans Trek Co-founder Anthony Anderson. “It’s helpful just being outside and being in the sun, hearing birds, and seeing colors. For me in my own recovery, getting out and forcing myself back into the world woke me back up.”
Anderson said involvement with Veterans Trek is also a way for military veterans to stay connected with other veterans while continuing to serve the public. He would like to see projects conducted more regularly like the work taking place on the Chequamegon-Nicolet. The crew is finishing up their work on the hiking and ski trails on the east side of the Forest and plan to return this fall to inventory trails on the west side of the Forest.
“Being of service is always valuable, but doing the things that bring you back is what you need to do,” Anderson said. “Serving our country doesn’t have to be over.”