Friday, January 9, 2015

Volunteer Trail Work: Try It -- You'll Like It!

Our country has a wealth of hiking trails available at no cost to hikers.  Unfortunately, for decades our national land management agencies have not had the funding to properly maintain the tens of thousands of miles of existing trails, nor sufficient money to construct new trails.  So as a trail user for over 5 decades, I have volunteered on 29 trail crews over the last 19 years, and will soon be leaving for my 30th project.  Most of the projects have been through the auspices of the American Hiking Society's Volunteer Vacation program.

I just received the AHS newsletter and they included some astounding statistics achieved by the 2014 volunteers:

THANK YOU to all American Hiking Society's members, donors, and volunteers who helped make 2014 a year of "giving back" instead of "giving up." AHS sent 449 volunteers on 57 trips to maintain 289 miles of trails throughout 23 states and the U.S. Virgin Islands for an estimated value of $404,998 in volunteer time.

These volunteer projects usually last a week.  You arrive on Sunday afternoon, work four of the five week days with one day off to hike the area's trails or sightsee or relax, and leave Saturday morning.  If you'd like to see what a typical week is like, here's a brief 4 minute video I made for AHS a couple years ago.

These projects reward the participants personally, too.  You get to spend a week in a magnificent locale, be part of a team effort to allow others to explore and savor a magnificent part of the world, interact with fine people from all over the country who enjoy the outdoors as much as you do, swap stories with these same people as you work on the trail or sit around the evening campfire, and feel pride in "giving back" to the hiking community.

So check out the available projects for 2015 and see if any fit into your schedule.  You can also look for similar (though perhaps more expensive projects) at The Sierra Club, Wilderness Volunteers, or Appalachian Mountain Club


There was also some good news politically:

 Despite the Administration's and the Senate's proposed funding levels of $350 million, the final numbers on the Land and Water Conservation Fund came in lower than we had hoped but at least held at the same level as the previous budget year: $306 million. Of the total amount appropriated, $28 million will go to projects that will benefit 12 National Scenic and Historic Trails. Please remember though - not one of your tax dollars supports this program, but rather it receives its funds from off-shore energy exploration fees and royalties.

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