Volunteer Trailhead Stewards Needed at Dolly Sods Wilderness Area

A Trailhead Steward from the Dolly Sods Wilderness Stewards points to a location on a map in front of three people who are ready to go hiking in the wilderness.

DRYFORK, W.Va.— The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy is seeking volunteers to support Dolly Sods Wilderness Area by welcoming and educating visitors to the wilderness as part of its Dolly Sods Wilderness Stewards program.

The Trailhead Stewards is the signature program of the Dolly Sods Wilderness Stewards, and it has helped thousands of visitors have a successful, low-impact experience of Dolly Sods. Trailhead Stewards greet and assist visitors who are embarking on a hike in Dolly Sods, offering resources, Leave No Trace practices, values of the wilderness and helpful tips. Trailhead Stewards are stationed at the busiest trailheads on weekends, holidays and other times of high visitation.

On Saturday, May 18, interested volunteers are invited to Seneca Rocks Discovery Center in Seneca Rocks, West Virginia, for a Trailhead Stewards training. The Wilderness Stewards’ Annual Picnic will follow the training. New volunteers are invited to join the training and participate in the picnic.

“Trailhead Stewards use the ‘authority of the resource’ technique to reinforce Leave No Trace principles,” said Dave Johnston, coordinator of the Dolly Sods Wilderness Stewards. “This approach leverages the inherent goodwill of most people toward natural areas and gives them reasons and methods for practicing low-impact hiking and camping to protect this special area of the Monongahela National Forest.”

In view of the rapidly increasing visitation to Dolly Sods Wilderness Area, the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy teamed with the Monongahela National Forest in 2021 to establish the Dolly Sods Wilderness Stewards program, which is the first of its kind in the state. The partnership allows for volunteer action to supplement the Forest Service’s wilderness management activities, engage in visitor education, and support the long-term health of the wilderness.

“By educating visitors about the values of wilderness and low-impact practices, the Wilderness Stewards hope to preserve the wilderness for the enjoyment of future generations and avoid the need for restrictions on visitor access that have been implemented in other popular natural areas across the country,” Johnston said.

Trainers from the Forest Service and West Virginia Highlands Conservancy will teach how to apply this technique, as well as the history of Dolly Sods, the issues it faces, and the key messages visitors need to know to enjoy the wilderness safely and sustainably.

No special skills or background are required for volunteers, though familiarity with Dolly Sods and hiking experience will be helpful. There is no minimum time commitment, and those who live far away or can only occasionally volunteer their time are welcome. The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy provides a convenient method for Wilderness Stewards to schedule themselves online for trailheads and shifts that work for their schedules.

Volunteers are also invited to join in the other Dolly Sods Wilderness Stewards activities, including the Crosscut Sawyer and Trail Maintenance teams, solitude monitoring, and campsite restoration.

For more information or to sign up, visit wvhighlands.org or email dollysodsstewards@gmail.com

About the USDA Forest Service Monongahela National Forest
The USDA Forest Service Monongahela National Forest manages eight designated Wilderness Areas. This partnership with the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy aims to jointly implement stewardship programs and projects to preserve the Wilderness character of these special areas. For more information about Monongahela National Forest, visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/mnf.

About the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy
The West Virginia Highlands Conservancy has been working since 1967 to preserve and protect West Virginia’s natural resources. Learn more at wvhighlands.org



Dave Johnston, Dolly Sods Wilderness Stewards Coordinator, WVHC
(571) 251-2249, dollysodsstewards@gmail.com

Olivia Miller, Program Director, WVHC
(304) 704-2997, olivia.miller@wvhighlands.org