While working on a local trail this morning, Clifford, a fellow volunteer said, “When I tell people what I’m doing out here, they think I’m crazy! But I love it.” Exercise, fresh air, beautiful surroundings, and good fellowship, all for free. We both agreed it was nice to do yard work in God’s back yard.
As we continued our work, Clifford stopped, looked at his watch, and commented that he had just met his Arkansas Master Naturalists certification requirement of 40 volunteer hours. About 30-minutes later we reached our stopping point for the day. We walked the short section several times commenting on the difference our work had made.
I continued around the trail with Pulaski in hand to chop out several little stubs I’d been noticing on my daily walks. As I hiked along thinking of many workdays on this trail since March of 2012, I began to realize what a wonderful treasure we have here.
I experienced a sense of deep gratification and thought of the thousands of steps that have already been taken on this trail. Some of our local hikers, especially children, got their start on this trail. The Lake Alma Trail is having an impact on the health of our community. I know it has benefited my own health and wellbeing.
I began to think of some of the trail volunteers I’ve worked with and how committed they are to making hiking trails available to others. Working with them has given me a new appreciation for every step I take on a trail.
Here’s a short list of reasons to volunteer to do trail building and maintenance.
1. Trail work is good exercise – It is a full body workout for sure. No gym charges and no gym smells.
2. Good fellowship – Great chance to work with good people.
3. Satisfaction – Tangible results from work is rewarding. It is nice to hike a section of trail where you’ve done some work.
4. Trail work blurs the lines between work and recreation. Nice to have an activity that you can frame any way that suits you. If you want others to think you have a strong work ethic, tell them you’re doing trail work. They don’t have to know how much you enjoy it.
5. Building or maintaining trails is a way to express your gratitude for creation and share the beauty with others. A well built trail allows many caring eyes to view an area and increase the likelihood that it will be protected.
If you want to be a trail volunteer, how do you get started?
1. Place a small trash bag in your pack and pick up any trash you see on the trails.
2. Occasionally hike with loppers and cut limbs back that brush against you as you hike. Kick rocks off of the trail or drag small trees off the trail as you hike.
3. Be part of a volunteer work crew on a workday. All you need is lunch, water, and work gloves. You might want your own loppers but most tools are provided.
4. Join a hiking community. If you’re in Arkansas, the Ozark Highlands Trail Association (OHTA) or Friends of the Ouachita Trail (FoOT) are great places to make contact for volunteer opportunities. Membership is inexpensive and your money goes to maintaining trails. Go to the Lake Alma Trail Facebook page to volunteer on a local community trail here in western Arkansas.