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Camp Dodge: Revisit AMC’s Volunteer Trails Hub on the Eve of its Renovation

February 28, 2017
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SIGNS OF SPRING
in New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest (WMNF) come in many shapes and forms, from skiers trudging up Tuckerman Ravine in search of soft snow to migratory birds returning to the native-plants garden at Pinkham Notch Visitor Center. But 4 miles north of Pinkham, at AMC’s Camp Dodge Volunteer Center, there’s a singular reminder of spring’s arrival.

In mid-April, senior trail staff unlock the roadside gate at Camp Dodge, AMC’s volunteer-programming hub. Every year for 35 years, these staffers have awakened the property from its winter slumber, removing the shutters from the main hall and bunkhouses, restocking the kitchen, and turning on the water.

In less than a month, an impermanent community of hundreds of environmental stewards—AMC’s volunteer trail crews, campsite and shelter caretakers, trail adopters, and research scientists, as well as members of partner organizations, such as the Student Conservation Association, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and Sierra Club—will pick up where they left off the fall before. By late May, Dodge will be fully operational, with AMC seasonal staff leading a variety of trail maintenance programs for 600-plus teenagers and adults who will contribute more than 18,000 volunteer hours servicing trails in New Hampshire and Maine this summer.

The camp’s opening not only announces a new season. It’s also a sign that a new generation of trail stewards will learn how to care for trails, to study the environment, and to educate thousands of hikers. It’s an annual ritual we can all be proud of—and one AMC wants to sustain for years to come. That’s why AMC, with the help of donors to AMC’s Leadership Giving Initiative, and the WMNF plan to revitalize Camp Dodge in 2017 to support AMC’s expanding trail programming and to strengthen partnerships among trail organizations.

Since 1982, when AMC received a special-use permit from the WMNF to manage the property, trail crews (now consisting of two leaders and six to eight participants each) have spent up to a month working in the forest and living at Dodge. A week on a trail crew can be a transformative experience, especially for teenagers, as these programs are often participants’ first time working in nature as part of a group. All crew members learn practical communication and leadership skills that are transferable to their daily lives back in their own communities.

But all of that good work means lots of wear and tear. To ensure AMC’s world-class trails programming educates and inspires environmental stewards for decades to come, the organization is raising funds to renovate Dodge’s aging facilities and infrastructure and to construct new buildings for AMC and its partners’ use. The project also involves renewing AMC’s special-use permit with the WMNF, which expired in 2016, for another 20 to 30 years.

“The new Camp Dodge will provide needed capacity for an integrated AMC trails program, as well as better collaboration with our trails partners in the White Mountains and beyond,” says Susan Arnold, AMC’s vice president of conservation. “New dormitories, training space, and expanded tool storage will ensure that Camp Dodge continues as a hub for trails stewardship.” AMC plans to break ground in fall 2017, renovating the main hall, kitchen, and three bunkhouses; constructing five new bunkhouses for volunteers and staff, as well as a volunteer bathhouse and a staff bathhouse; and adding a new welcome center and pavilion to the existing main building.

In honor of Dodge’s well-loved current facility, AMC Outdoors put together a behind-the-scenes tour of one of New England’s largest volunteer program centers. Who knows? Seeing the camp in full swing just might inspire you to don some work gloves and join a trail crew.


CAMP DODGE TIMELINE

1876 AMC founded

1918 Mountain National Forest (WMNF) established

1933 Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) established

1935 CCC breaks ground and constructs 15 buildings dubbed Camp Peabody

1942 Congress decommissions CCC and shutters Peabody

1942 Civilian Public Service (CPS) houses conscientious objectors in World War II

1943 CPS camp closes

Circa 1950 U.S. Army tests cold- weather gear onsite for the Korean War

1974 Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) occupies the proper- ty, renames it Camp Dodge

1974–77 YCC builds a new dining hall, kitchen, bathhouse; overhauls landscaping; demos concrete slabs; installs septic systems

1982 YCC leaves Dodge

1982 AMC receives WMNF permit to manage the property for volunteer conservation work

1985–96 United States Forest Service (USFS) conducts air-quality monitoring

1988–2006 AMC and Harvard’s School of Public Health conduct fine-particulate aerosol- monitoring program

1989 AMC and the U.S. Army Reserve build new bunkhouses

1994 AMC establishes dedicated teen trail program.

1995 USFS builds air-quality-monitoring shed for AMC, WMNF, and N.H. Dept. of Environmental Services

2001–10 AMC’s staff-led trail programming expands to five crews per week.

2011 AMC partners with N.H. Jobs for America’s Graduates and hosts a summerlong paid trail crew

2014 Current facility reaches capacity

2016 AMC begins fundraising to rehabilitate Camp Dodge


LEARN MORE
Read the official Camp Dodge project proposal and watch a video of AMC’s pro trail crew in action. To donate to Camp Dodge’s renovation, contact Gary Gresh at ggresh@outdoors.org or 617-391-6593.


 

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Ryan Smith

Ryan is the managing editor of AMC Outdoors magazine and contributing professional photographer. He has worked for AMC as a backcountry caretaker, trail crew member, Mountain Classroom educator, and Teen Wilderness guide. His passions include hiking, mountain biking, backcountry skiing, and climbing.