Chainsaw training essential for trail maintenance

Certified Sawyer Jim Chance clears blowdowns at Martin's Creek Falls on the Bartram Trail.

Chainsaw Training Essential for Maintaining Local Trails

Deena C. Bouknight – Contributing Writer

Clearing away fallen trees and branches is an essential component of trail maintenance on the Appalachian Trail, Bartram Trail, and numerous other trail systems in Western North Carolina. Some brush and debris can be hand cleared by volunteers, but full-size trees and large limbs requires trained and certified sawyers. 

A chainsaw certification training class by Mainspring Conservation Trust, but hosted by the Benton McKaye Trail Association, is planned for October. According to Rachel Newcomb, Conservation Outreach Associate at Mainspring, “This certification is taught by Dennis Helton of Helton Enterprises. Mainspring led and hosted a training in the spring on one of our properties with the same instructor, and it was very well-attended and participants highly lauded the experience.” 

Brent Martin, executive director for the Blue Ridge Bartram Trail Conservancy, “I’ve been certified to use a chainsaw on the trails, but I’m going to get recertified since mine expires in September. It’s a three-year certification and you have to have it to work on national forest land.”

Martin said chainsaw-certified sawyers are greatly needed. 

“Chainsaw work isn’t for everyone. We’ve probably got a dozen certified sawyers to work on the Bartram trails. It’s always great to have more than less, to keep the trails clear,” said Martin.

So far, Martin said six volunteers with Blue Ridge Bartram Trail Conservancy are signed up for the Oct. 15-16 class. 

Martin added that if people do not want to become certified to operate a chainsaw, volunteers are still needed in other capacities for trail maintenance. 

“We appreciate any volunteers so that we can keep the trails cleared for hikers to enjoy.” 

He explained that the Wallace Branch to Wayah Bald “is one of the most heavily used sections of the Bartram Trail in our area, and because of trail maintainers, it’s in good shape for the Naturalist Trail Race – 25 / 50k, which is a part of the Outdoor 76 Fall Celebration, Oct. 2.”

Martin hopes that people of all ages will consider the chainsaw certification class. 

“We’re optimistic about what we’ve been able to accomplish with our volunteers. We have a lot of retired people doing trail maintenance, but we want to also build a youth and younger adult culture to be a part of this outdoor economy. Getting certified as a sawyer is one way do that.”

The free class is open to supporters of Mainspring Conservation Trust, Blue Ridge Bartram Trail Conservancy, or Benton McKay Trail Association and involves one-half day on Friday and then a full day on Saturday. To sign up or for more information, contact Rachel Newcomb at Mainspring Conservation Trust, (828)524-2711 ext. 305.

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