Sharing Stewardship – The Crawford Path Project 2018


The Crawford Path was built in 1819, making it the oldest, continuously maintained and used footpath in America. The trail travels 8.5 miles beginning in Crawford Notch and terminating at the Mt. Washington summit, beginning at 1,900 feet, and climbing to its terminus at 6,288 feet. The trail spans all three districts on the White Mountain National Forest, and is overlaid by the Appalachian National Scenic Trail for 5.4 miles, providing it additional status as a flagship trail and valued destination with ancillary partnership potential.

This last summer (2018), the White Mountain Trail Collective hosted the first season of The Crawford Path project. This project, celebrating the 200 year old anniversary of the oldest continuously maintained recreation path in America, was chosen as a demonstration project of how the collective could work differently to accomplish more together.

In partnership with the National Forest Foundation, REI and the White Mountain NF, this project was designed to meet objectives of shared stewardship by facilitating skill building and cultural exchanges between existing trail clubs, enabling new and existing volunteer engagement through multiple opportunities, effectively showcasing and building on the legacy and skills of local trail clubs and ultimately debuting the concept of the White Mountain Trail Collective to partners and the public.

Funding received from the National Forest Foundation by the White Mountain Trail Collective was used to support the project with a trail crew, the Cardigan Highlanders Volunteer Trail crew, as well as an event held at the end of season event.  

The Cardigan Highlanders Volunteer Trail Crew volunteered man hours on Crawford Path doing brush work to cover illegal cut off trails and protect fragile vegetation.  The Trail Collective used funding from the National Forest Foundation to support them with food and travel.

In September the White Mountain Trail Collective held an event to celebrate Crawford Path and the volunteers and crews who worked over the 36 - crew weeks.  Funding from the National Forest Foundation was used to purchase t-shirts and lunch for all who participated and worked on Crawford Path.

Overall, 297 crew members, 20 plus partners, and 11 specific trail crews participated in the 36-crew weeks over the course of the summer. The Mount Washington Auto Road and Mount Washington Cog Railway partnered with the Collective to provide logistical support in transporting crews and equipment, saving hours of mobilization. Youth crews, family volunteer crews, a deaf youth conservation crew, trail clubs, and the Forest Service trail crews all worked together to brush over 6,406 feet, install 8 bog bridges, construct 63 rock steps, build 26 rock water bars and maintained over 470 feet of drainage.    The Trail Collective also provided two skills training during the season, focused on rigging, which mixed and matched crews from various partner organizations.

Another component of the Crawford Path project involved monitoring and protection of the fragile alpine ecosystem surrounding the trail. The trail’s condition has been directly linked to the status of the endangered dwarf cinquefoil in numerous early studies. Botanists worked side by side with trail crews to identify potential rock quarry areas and educate crews on how to avoid or mitigate (best practices) impacts to the alpine vegetation as they worked.

Ultimately, the Trail Collective was successful in demonstrating how when clubs work across territories and leverage their resources and skills, we can all accomplish more. Next summer, the Trail Collective, learning from this first year, will host the final season of shared work on Crawford Path, culminating in the celebration of 200th anniversary.