Trail Maintenance: How You can Help
Read: Every Little Bit Counts
Imagine trekking through the woods on a beautiful, sunny day only to stumble upon a massive, downed tree sprawled across the trail. There’s no way around it with all the untamed brush along the path, so you have to crawl your way through it, quite the challenge with a pack full of gear.
Chances are you’ve never been in this situation and that’s because of the countless volunteers who dedicate their time keeping the trails clear of debris. Trail maintenance is an essential part of what keeps nature enjoyable. Any bridge over a muddy bog, ditch dug to reroute rainfall or staircase built of rocks is the product of a trail maintenance crew. It’s easy to thank crews for these big projects, but there are lots of smaller ways trail maintenance positively affects trips outdoors. Often overlooked are the smaller, still essential, aspects of trail maintenance that every adventurer is capable of doing.
Pick up trash
We’ve all seen crushed plastic cups littering the roadside at trailheads and a stray granola bar wrapper half-buried at a shelter. Despite all efforts to spread the word about Leave No Trace, there’s still trash on the trail. One simple but big way every outdoor enthusiast can help is by picking up trash. Carry a small trash bag with you every time you head out and keep it somewhere accessible. Removing garbage from nature takes very little effort when you’re already out enjoying the outdoors.
Move small sticks
Another simple but effective act of trail maintenance is to clear the trail of small sticks and branches—anything someone might trip over. This can be as easy as flicking a stick back into the bushes with your trekking pole as you hike by. If you see a fallen branch hanging over the trail, stuck in a tree, grab it and pull it out. Instead of stepping over a newly fallen branch, roll it off the trail. Don’t try to cut downed trees or move anything that requires tools, as some areas have rules regarding who is permitted to use tools. Taking care of the small stuff will help tremendously when a trail crew comes in to get the big stuff.
Join a Trail Maintenance Team
Anywhere there’s a trail system, there is an organization that cares for it. Check at a trailhead for flyers about trail maintenance days. Ask your local outfitter about groups and meeting dates. You don’t have to commit to a specific section of trail or regular maintenance days (though you can if you want to!), they’ll be happy to have any help you can give.
Trail maintenance is a big job that makes a big impact, allowing everyone to enjoy the outdoors. Every little (and big) project makes a difference and everyone can play a role helping to keep nature beautiful.