The Givers: Amanda Peterson—The Trail Guru

6 Selfless Climbers Working Hard to Keep Our Crags Safe, Healthy, and Open
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This is part six of our series, The Givers, which profiles six climbers that share one common trait—they have all realized that community only works if each individual takes ownership. They have all asked, “If I don’t do it, who will?”

Amanda Peterson Access Fund Trail Smith Rock Climbing

Amanda Peterson at Smith Rock, OR

If you participated in a trail-work event over the past few years, you likely met Amanda Peterson. For three years, Peterson and her husband, Mike Morin, traveled in the Access Fund’s Conservation Fund Jeep and trailer, providing tools, training, consultation, and leadership for volunteer stewardship efforts at dozens of US climbing areas. The Conservation Fund’s projects range from the obvious to the obsolete: trail building in Indian Creek, an epic trash cleanup to open a climbing area in Springfield, Ohio, and the revitalization of urban bouldering in Southern venues like Moss Rock Preserve in Hoover, Alabama.

The Conservation Team was founded in 2011 to engage communities in caring for their home crags. It’s comprised of a pair of professional trail builders who live on the road and attend climbing events, festivals, and stewardship events across the country. At these events, the team recruits and engages volunteers, imparting skills and knowledge to the community. It’s the Access Fund’s version of teaching a man to fish. In 2011, the Conservation Team program consisted of just one team; this year, it’s three.

Peterson’s trail involvement began with Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado shortly after she graduated from Chapman University in Southern California in 2002. She went on to volunteer with Jefferson County Open Space (JCOS) in Golden, Colorado, where she met Morin, then a ranger for JCOS. Peterson worked for JCOS as a natural and cultural resource educator, yet continued to volunteer for a local state park, where she had her first brush with a visiting Conservation Team. Throughout, Peterson absorbed information on land management and access issues, and at the same time learned trail-building techniques.

Amanda Peterson Access Fund Climbing Trail Building

Peterson tweaking a landing at Northwest Branch, Maryland.

Peterson relishes the hard work and community that conservation work brings, and takes pleasure in seeing the difference people can make when they mobilize. With our bigger numbers come more erosion and foot impact, not to mention the “straight-up-to-the-cliff” approaches better served by switchbacks. Swamped land managers are often unequipped to deal with these issues, making such work more crucial than ever.

Peterson loves how her position on the Conservation Team has let her witness evolution across the country. For example, during her three-year stint, Peterson returned to Broughton Bluff outside Portland, Oregon, each year, tackling erosion issues and making headway along the trail. She watched as the climbing community in Portland—including gyms and local business—grew committed to being stewards of the park and forging positive relationships with the land managers. It’s a trend she’s seen nationwide.

Amanda Peterson Access Fund Climbing Trail Building

Splitting rocks in Indian Creek, UT, for building material (Peterson on right).

Now, Peterson and Morin have planted roots in North Conway, New Hampshire. Here, she serves as the North Country Trails Volunteer Program Supervisor for the Appalachian Mountain Club, while Morin works as the Northeast Regional Director for the Access Fund. Through this work, as through her work on the Conversation Team, Peterson instills in volunteers a sense of ownership, and the belief that many hands make light work.

Check out the rest of our Givers series: