My toddler isn’t old enough to go mountain biking or trail running. He has enough trouble walking outside without tripping over his own feet and getting distracted by pine cones, sticks and birds. Everything in nature is wonderful to him—the way it should be for all of us who are blessed to have the privilege of spending time on the trails.
I don’t know if my son will be into outdoor sports when he gets older. But I do want him to have every opportunity possible, and I have no bias toward which recreational activities he decides to participate in. I also know that it’s my duty (and yours)—regardless of what outdoor sports we enjoy—to protect our trails for future generations.
As the population continues to grow and people turn towards more active and healthier lifestyles, it’s only natural that trails are going to attract more people looking to improve their quality of life. While this is a good thing, more crowds mean more footprints and more trash.
It’s important to educate those new to hiking, mountain biking and trail running about conservation, trail etiquette and how to get involved in trail work. And we need to lead by example by continuing to volunteer ourselves. Let’s work together to build, restore and maintain our public lands and trails—for our own enjoyment, and future generations to come.
Below are some tips on how you can find trail work opportunities in your community.
1) Social media: Even if you swore off Facebook (I don’t blame you) you can still use it for good. Facebook is a great tool for staying up-to-date on trail work opportunities in your area. Find and follow a local trail maintenance group, and keep an eye on your events tab for upcoming volunteer opportunities.
Non-profit groups like the Trail Keepers of Oregon (TKO) regularly post trail work parties online where volunteers can learn how to build and restore trails, get accustomed to using the various tools, and gain insight into the local flora and fauna. I discovered an opportunity through Facebook to work with TKO in the Columbia Gorge shortly after the Eagle Creek fire. It was an experience I’ll never forget.
2) USFS: The United States Forest Service “manages and protects 154 national forests and 20 grasslands in 43 states and Puerto Rico.” Contact your local office to find out what volunteer opportunities are available and how you can get involved.
3) Reach out to Race Directors. Race directors need volunteers to help clear trails before an event. But even if you aren’t running in that race chances are you still use those same trails. Plus most RDs are familiar with the local trail maintenance organizations and should be able to steer you in the right direction.
4) Talk to your trail running friends and local running clubs. Most of the veteran ultra runners in your area have done their fair share of trail work over the years. Ask them where they’ve volunteered.
5) Get involved with your local International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) chapter. The IMBA is a wonderful organization that offers many great opportunities to volunteer.