Oregon volunteer leader Paul Martin Smith dies

Long-time PCTA organizer, leader and trail maintainer Paul Martin Smith died Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014, following complications from cancer. He was 64.

Paul, PCTA’s 2009 Regional Trail Maintainer of the Year, led the Mid-Oregon Volunteers for many years. A PCTA volunteer since 2006, he was highly recognized for his unselfish service to the trail and the association and his expertise as a certified crosscut sawyer and trail builder. He put in 5,906 volunteer hours with PCTA in seven years.

Paul's impact on the trail will be felt for a very long time.

Paul’s impact on the trail will be felt for a very long time.

According to PCTA Regional Representative Dana Hendricks, who worked closely with Paul, he organized the mid-Oregon region’s volunteers into a tight working group. Not only did Paul reorganize the trail sections from Windigo Pass to the northern boundary of Jefferson Park, he helped bring on eight new stewards, mentoring them through their first season while completing major tool cache improvements both east and west of the Cascade Mountains.

“It warms my heart that before Paul passed away, he was fully confident he’d transitioned the reigns of the group into the capable hands of Bill Carpenter,” Dana said. “We can all continue to build off of the legacy Paul left. He was a man of inspiring vision, diligence, and perhaps most of all, a quirky dry sense of humor. I’m pretty sure he liked to identify himself by his initials, PMS, just so he could watch people’s reactions.”

Bill said he will miss Paul, as will everyone in the Oregon trail community.

“Paul was always a mentor and teacher to everyone he did trail work with,” Bill said. “I can remember multiple times during my early trail work when he would come out with me and other newer trail workers and always had positive guidance. This was when I saw his passion for the Trail.”

Mike Dawson, PCTA trail operations director, said Paul was one of the earliest volunteers he worked with in central Oregon.

“Paul was willing to take on the needed work to help build what today is a thriving volunteer effort,” Mike said. “This kind of organizational work is some of the least heralded and most important work in building volunteer programs, and he enabled the work of scores of volunteers. The PCT will always be better for Paul’s efforts.”

Beth Boyst, U.S. Forest Service PCT Manager, remembered Paul as one of those remarkable people who was very deliberate in how he spent his time.

“He invested his skills and heart into stewardship of the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail and in doing so has left a legacy of citizen stewardship that is a benchmark for us all to strive for,” she said. “Our trail community is stronger because of the gifts he shared.”

His wife, Kathleen Evans, of Corvallis, Ore., and a stepson survive him.


He will be missed.

Author: Mark Larabee

Mark Larabee is the PCTA's Advocacy Director. He is the former editor of the "PCT Communicator" magazine and co-author of "The Pacific Crest Trail: Exploring America's Wilderness Trail" published in 2016. Larabee is a journalist, part of a team who won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news for The Oregonian newspaper. He hiked the PCT across Oregon for a 2005 series for the paper and has been with PCTA since 2010. He lives in Portland.