Trip Report: Successful 4th Annual Olympia Mountaineers/WTA Stewardship Weekend

The Olympia Stewardship Committee and WTA co-sponsor a yearly Wynoochee Trail Maintenance event. Learn how we incorporated Covid-19 protocols to ensure a safe and successful 2020 event.
Dee Ann Kline Dee Ann Kline
Olympia Branch Leader & Super Volunteer
September 24, 2020
Trip Report: Successful 4th Annual Olympia Mountaineers/WTA Stewardship Weekend
Chris Wright receives her hard hat. Photo by Jim French

Over the weekend of August 29-30, our Olympia Branch Stewardship Committee co-sponsored Wynoochee Trail maitenence activities in partnership with Washington Trails Association. I sat down with Ginger Sarver - a Stewardship Leader, 4-time Super Volunteer, and the Event Organizer - to hear more about the impact of this fun weekend.

What were the challenges you faced this year and how were you able to successfully navigate them?

The original (and traditional) date for this weekend event was the first weekend in May, but it was clear in early April this would not be possible. In coordination with WTA we arrived at the decision to postpone it to the end of August. That presented a different problem in that all the established camping areas in the Wynoochee area were full with reservations by paying customers. WTA leadership worked out an arrangement with the Wynoochee Campground management for a "secret" area where we were able to camp for free and maintain social distancing. Everything was looking good with a robust sign up of Mountaineers until the governor issued a new restriction of no more than 10 people in a gathering. I asked for volunteers to cancel if they had any concerns about the arrangements and for a while the roster was like a revolving door with folks dropping, new Mountaineers signing up and then dropping, until the dust settled during the last week before the event.

What trail modifications were made to ensure Covid-19 safety?

We followed the COVID safety regulations developed by WTA. These include: pre-screening questions asked of everyone during the safety briefing each day; social distancing while working; wearing masks when it was necessary to be closer than six feet from another person (including hikers passing by); no sharing of tools; use of personal hand sanitizer frequently; and no double-bucking of downed trees.

We were able to remove several large trees from the trail by single bucking and trading off with another person when getting tired. In that case, saw handles were sanitized with disinfectant before the new person took over. You will note that the picture of folks pushing the big log off the trail shows everyone wearing masks because they were closer than 6 feet for the minute or so it took to move the log.

Photo by Maya Magarati.

How many people participated?

We ended up with the perfect number for two separate work parties on Saturday of slightly less than 10 each which we could accommodate. Total number of Mountaineers for Saturday was 13 (+3 WTA crew), with 8 Mountaineers on Sunday (+3 WTA crew). A number of the Mountaineers worked only on Saturday, so we had just the right number for primitive camping Saturday night in the "secret" field and then two small work parties for Sunday (no one new came for Sunday only).

Of course we had to cancel the Saturday night potluck, but we had a grand time sitting around in a huge socially distanced circle visiting over our individually prepared dinners Saturday night.

Social Distancing.jpgPhoto by Ginger Sarver.

Were there any "Rock Stars" in this event?

WTA Crew Leader Gregg Grunenfelder has led this event for several years and is clearly passionate about continuing the tradition. We are also extremely fortunate to have Dawn Rorvik in our branch as she is now a WTA Crew Leader as well, so she led the second team both days, working on a completely different part of the trail.

How do you measure success?

Everyone was very pleased with the amount of work we accomplished with such a small cadre and there were smiles all around at the end of both days.

Main photo by Jim French.

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Jennifer Fortin
Jennifer Fortin says:
Sep 25, 2020 09:32 AM

What a wonderful article on this amazing weekend. Congrats to all who participated, Dee Ann who wrote this wonderful description of the weekend, Ginger Sarver and Dawn Rorvik who put this together, as well as the wonderful WTA leaders who worked out the plans and details!