GRANTS PASS, Ore. — Shane Krogen has no trouble finding retirees willing to spend a week in the wilderness grubbing out rocks and swinging a pick or shovel to bring a hiking trail back up to national standards.
The hard part is getting the U.S. Forest Service to come up with a few thousand dollars to buy the volunteers a T-shirt and feed them well, which is all it takes to keep them coming back for more.
"The Forest Service will fund us when they can, if they've got the dollars," said Krogen, executive director of the High Sierra Volunteer Trail Crew in Clovis, Calif. "It's just a matter of their budgets being cut drastically."
A government watchdog agency has found that hiking trails on national forests suffer from a $314 million backlog in maintenance, with only a quarter of the 158,000 miles of trails meeting national quality standards.
"The Forest Service has more miles of trail than it has been able to maintain, resulting in a persistent maintenance backlog with a range of negative effects," said the report from the Government Accountability Office.