Machine Operator Training Program

On the weekend of September 23 & 24, 2023, NWTA hosted a pilot machine operator training program with a beginner class. Seven students – longtime volunteers and crew leads with NWTA – met to learn how to safely operate our mini excavator and get some practice time under local machine building legend Jason Wells.

NWTA has been working with Jason over the last year to develop a multi-level training program that will allow volunteers to grow and practice as machine operators, while staying safe and not going beyond one’s limits.

Jason teaching the class about changing the bucket

Owning and operation machines is major investment for any trail stewardship organization. Being a machine operator is more that just knowing how to maneuver and dig a trail – it’s also knowing how to do basic machine maintenance and troubleshooting, load and secure a machine for transport, drive the trailers, and unload the machines on site safely. All of these skills are introduced in the pilot machine training program.

Look for these stellar volunteers who are going through the training program out doing trail work this season! As part of the training curriculum provided to these volunteers, they will be spending 20 hours of time this season doing maintenance work and small builds. NWTA is excited to pilot this program and expand our capacity for machine built trails to be done by volunteers, in addition to the professionals we hire.

Aidan and Thomas working in tandem to clear trail

Thank you to Board Member Daniel Stuart, who worked closely with Jason to put together the program (and feed people!). Thank you to our instructor and trail builder extraordinaire, Jason Wells.

A massive thank you as well to Andy Jansky, who has spent COUNTLESS hours managing, fixing and towing our machines for as long as anyone can remember. He and Scooter Sutterer have been the go-to, reliable volunteers who spend time not just building with the machines, but changing ditch witch tracks in the pouring rain, oiling machines, making sure our machines are secure… all the things that come with the fun part of running a machine to build trail. With the new class of volunteers, these two will no longer have to shoulder all of the responsibility for machine work.

We look forward to more volunteers being fully trained on all the responsibilities of machine-building trails!

Clearing organics and starting to grade
Kent and Casey admiring their work on a portion of the finished trail