Become A Trail Ambassador For The Little Traverse Wheelway!
“This is the best job I ever had. I see the bay practically everyday, and I’m always in awe of it.”
Meet Patrick Affholter. He’s got an interesting job.
“I get to ride my bike on the little traverse wheel way and talk to people. Two of my favorite things to do.”
His official title — Trail Ambassador.
The program is a joint effort between Top of Michigan Trails and the city of Petoskey. But what exactly does this job entail?
“Being our eyes and ears out on the trail,” says Becca Nelson, Associate Director of Top of Michigan Trails organization.
“I’m a welcoming presence. I like to make sure people feel comfortable being here, feel good about their decision visiting our area, what kinds of things they can do and where they can go here.”
He’s kinda got all the answers.
“People ask me about where to get ice cream, or have lunch, or have a beer. I feel like I’m kind of an ambassador for the trail system but also for the community.”
A helping hand to the community.
“If I see somebody looking at a map. There are signs along this trail with maps. I’ll stop and say, ‘hey you look like you could use a trail ambassador.’
Becca Nelson says that, “with increased trail use within the last 18 months or more, more people are using the trails who may not be familiar with riding bikes and the particular etiquette the trail ambassadors actually help with that because they set the example.”
“It’s not part of the trail ambassador job responsibility but I always carry a bag with me and I pick up litter along the way,” says Affholter.
And sometimes we get lost along the way…
“I have maps of the little traverse wheel way, carry these along and hand them out to anyone who wants copies of them.”
But that’s how we find some of the most interesting trails in life.
“It’s not unusual for me, in one shift, to meet people from coast to coast. New York to Southern California, South Carolina to Seattle.”
Connecting and making new friends is just the perks of the job.
“A couple of weeks ago I met somebody who’s a volunteer on a trail system in the Chicago area. He and his wife were here for the first time, they’ve never been to this part of Michigan, and he said they came here for this trail, this was on his bucket list he said. I hear that actually fairly often.”
These trails are a real benefit to the surrounding communities.
“They’re an economic benefit, they’re a public health benefit, a recreational resource.”
“Right now we have about ten to fifteen active trail ambassadors. We always are looking for more,” says Nelson.
Because sometimes you just need somebody to point you… In the right direction.
“It’s really fulfilling. It things that I love to do anyway, but to feel it has more of a purpose, it’s personally fulfilling.”
For more information on how you can become a Trail Ambassador, CLICK HERE.