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Volunteers for Outdoor Missouri teach skills series

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The Master Trail Builder program provides training to individuals throughout Missouri who then volunteer their time applying what they have learned to help others in their communities to learn about building and maintaining dirt trails. The program consists of 10 four-hour courses to choose from.

To become a Missouri Trail Builder, an individual must first attend 30 hours of classroom core-course training. Then the Master Trail Builder trainees are required to give 30 hours of volunteer service back to their community in approved activities to fulfill the program’s mission of “More Recreational Trails for Public Health.”

The training program is sponsored by Volunteers for Outdoor Missouri, whose mission is to build a force of volunteer workers that provides the resources for state, county, and cities to draw upon in building and maintaining sustainable recreational trails.

The goal is to develop partnerships with local land managers, and provide them with training and resources for improving the sustainability of their public recreational trails.

The underlying assumption of this “trail college curriculum” is that a student new to trail work will start with the 100-level classes before moving on to 200-level classes.

100. So, What is Trail Work? Intro to Trail Maintenance: This introductory sampler class is intended for people brand new to trail work who want an overview. One quarter of the class covers “how trails work,” i.e. basic trail design concepts; one quarter covers trail work safety protocols; one quarter covers hands-on brushing and hand-saw clearing; and one quarter covers hands-on drainage cleaning.

101. Opening the Trail -- How to Brush and Scout a Trail: Intended for those who want to learn how to cut brush and small logs to clear a trail to proper specifications. After discussion of safety protocols, students learn about safe and effective use of hand saws and loppers.

102. Protecting Trails from Erosion -- Intro to Tread and Drainage: Gravity, water, and users are constantly damaging trails. The class covers basics of hillside hydrology (water flow patterns), and how trails work when they are shedding water properly. Includes basic trail design concepts and how to recognize tread erosion patterns. Hands-on practice removing slough and berm, and thorough cleaning and maintenance of existing waterbars and drain dips.

200. Where Do Trails Come From? Basic Trail Design: For curious trail workers who want to understand a bit of theory about how trails are well designed and why so many trails are in bad shape because of poor design. Introduction to different trail design standards appropriate for different kinds of trails, different levels of difficulty and different trail classes. This class is for anybody interested in these topics but students with some trail building and maintenance experience will benefit the most.

201. Location and Design of Drainage Features: Intended for someone who has taken 102 or has the equivalent experience. Learn the concepts behind selecting a design, locating, and constructing effective drainage structures.

202. Preserving Trails with Self-Cleaning Drain Dips: Build earthen drain dips and rolling grade dips to replace dysfunctional drainage structures on existing trails.

203. Correcting Trail Drainage Problems with Log Waterbars: Build log water bars and log check dams. The class will include a review of outdated and contemporary techniques.

204. Correcting Trail Drainage Problems with Rock Waterbars: Build rock waterbars and rock check dams. The class will include a review of outdated and contemporary techniques.

205. Tread Re-Construction: Review the concepts of hillside hydrology and basic trail layout. Re-excavate badly slipped and cupped tread to re-establish outslope and restore the tread to original or ideal specs. (Pre-requisite: 102, or equivalent experience)

304. Leadership: Managing a Crew: For students with moderate to extensive trail building experience who want to lead trail crews and work parties. Not a construction techniques class; this is about effective leadership.


For more information:

Read more about Volunteers for Outdoor Missouri and the Master Trail Builder program at


The National Trails Training Partnership

American Trails, P.O. Box 491797, Redding, CA 96049-1797 • (530) 605-4395 • Fax: (530) 547-2035 •

The National Trails Training Partnership is an alliance of Federal agencies, training providers, nationwide supporters, and providers of products and services. Visit the online calendar of training opportunities, access hundreds of trail-related resources, read the news, learn how you can help, and see training resources in your state.

This material is based upon work supported by the Federal Highway Administration under Cooperative Agreement DTFH61-06-H-00023. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the Author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Federal Highway Administration.



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