When Francesca Verdier clicked volunteer on our website a year ago, it was a lucky day for Berkeley’s walkers. She brought to BPWA her passion for building trails and six years of varied experience volunteering on weekends in parks all over Northern California, from Napa County to Mt. Diablo to the Ventana Wilderness near Big Sur. She even spent a vacation with her daughter on a weeklong project on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Francesca also is a veteran of Mt. Diablo’s Volunteers in Parks, East Bay Trail Dogs, Volunteers for Outdoor California, Ventana Wilderness Alliance, and Tulyome.

But it wasn’t until last year when she retired from her supercomputing job at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory that she could devote weekdays to building paths in her hometown of 20 years.

“We had used the Berkeley paths for exercise ever since we moved here,” she recalls, “and I always knew I’d work on them someday.”

Although Francesca had lots of practice clearing and creating dirt trails, she never had put in wood-tie steps, which, she says “involves much more precision than trail work, and was challenging for a mechanically inept person like me.”

She has enjoyed learning this new skill and working with Steve Glaeser and other BPWA volunteers during their twice-a-week work parties. She helped build the brand new Keeler Walk — soon to be renamed John Muir Path — that links Grizzly Peak Blvd. to Creston Road.  She also is installing much-needed steps on the steep Clark Kerr Trail that goes up Panoramic Hill, a project that BPWA volunteers are doing with a new pat-building group called Take To the Hills.

Francesca notes that both her trail work in parks and path building in town provide a good workout, camaraderie, and a satisfying sense of accomplishment. “The results are tangible, my co-workers are great, and people who use the trails and paths really appreciate what we do. I hope that more people will be inspired to join us.”