Volunteer Spotlight

Trail Ambassadors

Imagine this: You are hiking a trail in an unfamiliar park, you don’t have a printed map, and you don’t have enough phone reception to call up a navigation app. The sun’s getting low, and you’re wondering how you got yourself into this mess.

Then, around the next bend, you see a fellow hiker wearing a Friends of China Camp vest and hat, walking towards you with a reassuring smile. Lucky for you, you’ve run into one of our friendly trail ambassadors. This band of dedicated volunteers assists visitors by sharing maps, giving directions, and inspiring enough confidence to see once-wayward hikers and mountain bikers getting back on their way, returning safely to their parked cars.

“A lot of people are happy to see volunteers out [in the park],” says Sean O’Leary, a Friends of China Camp Trail Ambassador for over two decades. “If they have questions, I’m happy to answer them. I see that it gives confidence to the public that we are out there.”

China Camp’s eyes and ears

Our friendly uniformed trail ambassadors are among the first park representatives that the public encounters on our trails. Their role is primarily to be the “eyes and ears” of the park, patrolling our trails by foot or bike. Along the way, they stop to provide helpful information and directions to visitors. On occasion, they assist during emergencies. They also help our trail maintenance team by reporting the location of downed trees and trail damage in a timely way—a huge boon during this winter’s destructive storms.

Ambassador O’Leary recalls encountering a hiker along Back Ranch Fire Road a few years ago. It was a hot summer day, and the hiker was feeling fatigued and disoriented. Sean offered her a spare water bottle and a map, and helped direct her back to her car. Lucky for this hiker, he found her before her situation got worse. 

Laura Phipps, another longtime trail ambassador, says she appreciates the public recognition that comes with having uniformed ambassadors out on the trails. But it doesn’t stop there, adds Laura. 

“Being an ambassador doesn’t end when you leave the trails,” she notes. “Talking to the neighbors, friends, and community members about the park and the efforts of the volunteers—it’s important.” 

From all of us at Friends of China Camp, and from the visitors you have helped along the way, thank you, trail ambassadors!

—by Sheila Coll


Friends of China Camp is currently recruiting new volunteer trail ambassadors. What a great way to experience China Camp—out on the trails, helping visitors, and knowing you are providing an important service. Find out more by contacting Sheila Coll at scoll@friendsofchinacamp.org.

photo: joyce abrams (pictured left to right: John Denigris, Russ Young, Arlin Weinberger, Greg Giffra, Joanne Giffra, Laura Phipps, Jackson Barker)