Jim (far right) at ITA’s Crew Leader College.

 ITA volunteer Jim Manning first began leading crews last season and was awarded ITA’s coveted 2022 Crew Leader of the Year award (and given a special ITA mug to prove it!) We’re grateful to Jim for leading crews and making a difference for Idaho’s trails! 

Tell me a little about yourself.

I spent 43 years in commercial banking, mostly in the Southwest and Western states. When we began our family, my wife and I continued my family tradition of vacationing near the ocean. As our kids grew we shifted to Colorado as a vacation spot. The kids all came to love the mountains and spent their days in them outdoors.

How and why did you first get involved with ITA?

After retirement I went looking for a local group to hike with. A number of the folks in the group that I discovered were already involved with ITA, and soon opportunities presented themselves to join new friends on ITA work details.

What do you like about volunteering with ITA?

First I like the ITA mission, keeping trails open. I like the people who volunteer to help keep the trails open. I like the diversity of personalities, skills, and backgrounds; but, mostly I like the commitment that each volunteer brings on the day of a project. We ask people to be safe, have fun, and work within their abilities and they do! At the end of a day we are always a bit tired, I have always had a good time, and everyone has operated safely.

Most memorable backcountry or ITA experience?

I have had a lot of experience that could be turned into a campfire story; but, the one I think of often is one that involves my father.

Dad was car camping the family across America in the mid 50’s. I was 7 or 8. We arrived at Yellowstone NP well after dark. The tent was a 50 pound canvass object that would sleep 8 of us; but, getting it up took more than a few minutes. Dad had been driving for more than 12 hours and getting settled for the night was a priority.

Dad picked a campsite in a place where the sound of rushing water and the wind in the trees filled our ears. The station wagon was backed into the site and Dad took me to a spot and told me to stand still so he could use me as a guide to finish positioning the car. As I waited for movement the sound of rushing water seemed to grow. When the tail lights were about to blind me I disobeyed Dad and moved out of position. He let it go.

The next morning I was awakened by my mother’s voice, and she was unhappy. It turns out Dad had positioned me about 6 inched from a cliff above the Yellowstone River and one small step or a bump by the car backwards would have left me falling to a certain death.

Dad assured Mom that he knew I was smart enough to get out of his way and that I was never in any real danger.

I was ok; but I think we had a quiet day in the car.

Why are trails worth protecting?

Every person deserves to spend time exploring our national and state lands. I believe in connecting with our past and the land can afford us an opportunity to feel and experience where our oldest ancestors came from. It doesn’t matter if it’s forest, desert, wetlands, mountains… the human race had to survive it to get here. Trails take us to where we came from.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I volunteer to give back and to pay forward the gift of the outdoors. This is another way to do a little that can mean so much to someone else.