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When You're 80, What Will You Do For Fun?!

At age 80 will you be playing shuffleboard for kicks? Perhaps a little Wii bowling? Or, how about 150 days of sweaty, grimy trail work—in one year alone? If you are Pete Dewell, 80-year-old Seattle resident, you choose the latter. Pete is a dedicated volunteer with the Washington Trails Association (WTA), one of REI’s grant recipients. And yes, in 2010 Pete volunteered on over 150 work parties hosted by the WTA.

The WTA is a nonprofit membership organization that works to protect and enhance hiking opportunities in Washington state. WTA takes volunteers out to maintain trails and promotes hiking as a healthy, fun way to explore Washington. Since 2003 REI has awarded WTA more than $200,000 through REI’s grants program, which has donated more than $28 million nationwide during the same period.

Lauren Braden, WTA’s Communications and Outreach Director, shares Pete’s inspiring story:

Pete Dewell, Image by Arlo Smith

When Pete Dewell began coming out on work parties with WTA over 10 years ago, he wasn't expecting it to become a full-time avocation. After all, he hadn't fully retired from his work as an attorney just yet.

A decade later, Pete is now a very young 80 years old. If you think that has slowed him down a little, think again.

Pete has spent a whopping 893 days volunteering on the trails in Washington. In 2010 alone, he volunteered on over 150 work parties. He's one of our most dedicated volunteers, and we're so happy to announce that Pete was just recognized for his amazing contributions by the National Public Lands Day program, which named him "Volunteer of the Year." The award recognizes individual volunteers who exhibit noteworthy dedication and passion for their public lands. Congratulations, Pete!

Pete inspires each and every one of us at WTA. So, we wanted to know what inspired him to spend many of his days in retirement building some of the best rock walls and most beautiful drainage dips this side of the Mississippi. “I really like construction work, and this was such a challenge,” explained Pete. “Like practicing law, you analyze the problem and come up with a solution. As I began to decrease my law practice, the lure of trail work with WTA became my new profession."

It took four people to move the biggest rock of the day. Pete, the head trail builder, shows the new recruits how to do it.

Pete was all smiles upon hearing that he received the Volunteer of the Year award. “Well, I must say this is a humbling matter,” he said. “There are so many other folks who deserve it more, but it makes me want to do even more.”

At the WTA, we host thousands of volunteers each year who give their free time improving trails throughout the state of Washington to make them safer and more enjoyable for hikers. Many of these incredible folks deserve special recognition for their dedication and leadership. Still, Pete sets himself apart.

In addition to the staggeringly high number of days Pete puts in with a Pulaski tool on the trail, he serves on most of WTA's work parties as an assistant crew leader. This means Pete helps organize work parties and ensures that project volunteers have the support and instruction they need throughout the day (and plenty of candy for energy, too.) When he takes his hardhat off, Pete helps out in other ways—providing pro-bono legal counsel to WTA, and for 6 years serving on our board of directors. Pete even wrote a how-to guide for trail volunteers, titled, "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Trail Maintenance, but Were Afraid to Ask."

Pete Dewell, Image by Paul Bestock

This past National Public Lands Day in September was Pete’s tenth, and it won’t be his last. For this year’s event, Pete led a crew of volunteers to build a new one-mile trail to a stunning viewpoint on Guemes Mountain, part of Washington state’s San Juan Islands. Not only is Pete spearheading the construction of this project, but he is a key reason the trail is getting built in the first place, as he is the person who brought local land trusts together with WTA to make it happen. Talk about going the extra mile!

By the end of 2010, Pete will have spent close to half the year on trail with WTA. He’s working hard to keep the trails on our public lands safe and accessible, and all the while he is inspiring fellow hikers to join him on his mission.

Does Pete’s story inspire you to get out there and volunteer? Please visit Volunteer Match to find opportunities near you.



Posted on at 5:47 PM

Tagged: Hiking, grants, nonprofit, rei, service projects, stewardship, volunteer and washington trails association

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Inspiration! Thanks

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