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By Josh Otero, Trails Program Manager

A little over 5 years ago I called up my girlfriend (who’s now my wife), to excitedly share with her: “I think I found my career.” This was during my first week or so working with the Natural Areas Conservancy (NAC) on the Citywide Trails Team. A few years prior to working with the NAC I had my first foray into the trails world as a Crew Leader with the Student Conservation Association (SCA), leading a youth crew on a trail construction project at Bayswater Park in Far Rockaway, Queens. As part of that experience I had an introduction into trails practices through on-the-ground application improving trails with hand tools. 

regrading tread on Forest Park Bridle Trail

Regrading tread on Forest Park Bridle Trail

man drilling rock to split for a rock check step project

Josh drilling rock to split for a check step project

I’ve had the great pleasure of exploring and working on nature trails in over 35 NYC parks. Prior to this job, I hadn’t been aware there was so much natural beauty in NYC, let alone that there were over 250 miles of trails by which our natural areas could be enjoyed.

I also hadn’t known the amount of work or expertise required to manage nature trails. During this time I’ve learned so much about ecology and trail work, in large part through practice, research, and the good graces of being around so many knowledgeable and passionate people at the NAC and NYC Parks. 

man speaking to a crowd in a forest trail

Josh leading a Trail Maintainer training at Pelham Bay Park

A trail experience for every New Yorker

There are different experiences offered to hikers in each of the five boroughs, and within parks themselves, seemingly unlimited ways to experience nature. There’s always an opportunity to enjoy a walk or really nerd out and learn something new. Back when I was a Trail Associate working daily on trail improvement projects, I had a regimen of jogging 2 miles every other day. I absolutely loved having an opportunity to run on our nature trails, feeling the shift in the terrain and moving through the different plant communities. 

Man in red shirt speaks to urban rangers on a forest trail

Josh conducting trails training for Urban Park Rangers at Inwood Hill Park

Finding connection to nature

Spending time in these areas through the seasons and experiencing different weather events, I’ve also had an opportunity to better understand the patterns in our forests and wetlands. I can now much better understand and identify the variations and behavior of various flora and fauna. I can read the land with a trails-eye view and, just as importantly, know how to efficiently survey and assess conditions for the implementation of trail projects. These are things I’ve been able to learn in just five years, and I’m excited, because I don’t feel like I’ve even scratched the surface yet! 


Group of trail maintainer volunteers in a field

The first Trail Maintainer Appreciation event on National Trails Day in 2021

Bringing together a vibrant community

I’m thankful for the passing birder who shares information about how to identify a bird’s call;  the mycologist who shares their magnifying glass along with tips for identification; and the herpetologist who shares their insights about our sensitive habitat and those amphibians or invertebrates that inhabit them. I’m thankful for the plant communities, wildlife communities, and the shared community I’ve experienced with fellow New Yorkers out in NYC Parks. 

If you haven’t already, I strongly encourage you to get out on a nature trail and explore. Recreation, leisure, working with the land, and an opportunity to learn more about our natural world, await you in natural areas citywide. 

National Trails Day is on Saturday, June 1! Celebrate the trails in our beautiful city, and come join us at a special event near you. 

Josh Otero fastening a puncheon in Alley pond park
Trails April 01, 2024

How the Citywide Trails Team is Improving More than 1000 ft. of Trails in Alley Pond Park

By Josh Otero, Trails Program Manager A little over 5 years ago I called up my girlfriend (who’s now my wife), to excitedly share ...

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