Zoellner started working with the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation as its Program Director, managing the many trail system projects and educational opportunities offered to volunteers. Last year the Foundation’s Board of Directors appointed her as its Executive Director. Now she oversees all aspects of the non-profit’s objective to identify trail system improvements and build volunteer programs to carry them out.
Managing a small staff including a year-round Program Director and four seasonal crew leaders who run approximately 50+ trips throughout the summer, Zoellner says her relentless determination to “figure stuff out” translates well to running a non-profit. “You have to not only wear a lot of hats, but you have to actually make the hats too,” she jokes. “Right now I’m relishing the new challenges as Executive Director and I try to glean as much knowledge and inspiration from the great people who volunteer with the BMWF, our Board of Directors, volunteers and partners.”
Being so connected to The Bob, Zoellner has plenty of opportunity to enjoy the wilderness. While narrowing down her favorite places in The Bob was difficult, she settled on Brushy Parks in the fall. At an elevation of 5,000 feet and draining the west side of the Continental Divide, Zoellner says the fall colors, wildlife and seclusion always draws her back.
Of the hundreds of projects completed through the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation, Zoellner says some of the most memorable are the women-only trail projects. Each year the ladies from the Flathead Backcountry Horseman Chapter use their own horses and mules to pack volunteers into The Bob for a week of work and fun.
“I'm always impressed by the wonderful people who choose this volunteer opportunity as their vacation,” said Zoellner. “It's a very fulfilling experience to participate in active wilderness stewardship and know that you are making a difference to protect this special place for your children and theirs, to enjoy as we have. The volunteers come away with new skills and an amazing, unforgettable, experience in the backcountry.” Zoellner also recalled the very first women-only trail project in 2008. Some of the ladies had never been backpacking, much less done trail work. The week they spent with pulaskis and starlit nights in the backcountry developing new skills, forging new relationships and challenging each other is one they’ll never forget. “At the end of the project one lady summed it up, saying, ‘I did things on my Bob trip that I never thought I would do in my entire life,’” Zoellner quoted.
This year Zollner is looking forward to getting even more women involved in The Foundation’s programs.
406 Woman April May 2011