Department of Environmental Conservation

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DEC's Adopt-a-Trailhead (AAT) program is an opportunity for members of the public to actively care for state lands and educate visitors on the value of responsible recreation. Interested volunteers would be assigned to a local trailhead where they would pick up and properly dispose of any litter and/or speak with visitors about the Leave No Trace Principles - a set of best practices that help recreationists enjoy the outdoors while minimizing their impact. Although DEC stresses the need for willing educators, volunteers do not need to do both to apply.

Applying as a group is recommended since volunteers are expected to spend time at their assigned trailhead most weekend mornings, Memorial Day weekend through Columbus Day weekend. This will include holiday weekends and some Friday afternoons, depending on the location. Individuals interested in participating may submit an application provided they understand the time commitment or email to get connected with a volunteer group in their area.

DEC thanks all potential volunteers for their interest - we appreciate your time and passion for helping us care for public lands!

Time Commitment

The larger the group, the more the work can be divided among the members, but how often each member visits the trailhead is up to the group to decide, provided the time requirement is met. In addition to the time spent at the actual trailhead, each group member will need to complete a series of online trainings focusing on safety, as well as Leave No Trace and visitor education, before they can begin volunteering. These trainings are required whether the group volunteers to educate visitors or not.

A simple report will need to be submitted on a monthly basis with statistics such as number of volunteers that participated, number of hours spent at the trailhead, etc. A report template will be provided by the AAT coordinator.

Virtual meetings between volunteers and program staff will be offered a few times a season to answer any questions and share suggestions.

How to Apply

Please submit only one application per volunteer group. Make sure to identify on the application whether the group will be conducting litter removal, visitor education, or both, and provide a main point of contact or group leader. Please submit your completed Adopt-a-Trailhead volunteer application (PDF) to (email applications are preferred) or via mail to:

NYSDEC, Division of Lands and Forests
Attn: Adopt a Trailhead Coordinator
625 Broadway, 5th Floor
Albany, NY 12233

Required Training

Volunteer trainings will focus on:

  • Leave No Trace Principles - DEC has partnered with the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics for more than 20 years to promote responsible recreation and a care for the outdoors to New York State visitors. Check out the Leave No Trace website (leaves DEC website) to learn more about the Center and the Seven Principles.
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Harassment and Workplace Violence Prevention