While meandering along a hiking or biking trail, have you ever stopped to wonder how it got there? Or how it is maintained? Most recreational trails are built and maintained by trail volunteers who donate their time, effort, and resources into keeping the trails in tip top shape! When you choose to volunteer on trails, you are choosing to spend some time outdoors doing meaningful work on your local trails. It’s a win-win for you and the trails!
The mountain bike trails that I run on in Starkey Wilderness Park are maintained by the SWAMP Mountain Bike Club. They also maintain several other mountain bike trail systems throughout the Tampa area. When I have some extra time, I try and give some time to the SWAMP Club and volunteer at their trail workday. It’s fun being able to give back and help out on the trails I love to run! I’ve even helped create some of the new trails to complete their 19 mile mountain bike loop!
What Can You Expect on a Trail Workday?
Don’t worry if you do not know all the ins and outs of building a trail. Trail organizations will happily train you on trail maintenance skills, and they will match you with what you are suited for best. Most of the time when I volunteer for the SWAMP Club, I am on a “finishing crew” (along with Sean and my son Andy), whose job it is to follow behind the heavier equipment and finish the clean up on the trails with some raking, smoothing, and clipping of branches. It’s usually similar work to spending a few hours in the backyard.
What Equipment Do You Need?
The organization you are volunteering with will most likely provide any tools you will need. But it is a good idea to come prepared for trail work. Wear long pants, long sleeves, work gloves (or garden gloves), sturdy shoes or boots, and consider a hard hat. Wear bug repellent and sunscreen. You will also want to bring water and a snack to keep you hydrated and fueled for work.
Be A Trail Volunteer!
So, How do you get started with volunteering? The easiest way is to find out who maintains your local trails, and contact them about their work days. If you are in the Tampa area, I encourage you to check out the SWAMP Mountain Bike Club, as they are always rotating workdays between all of the trails they maintain. Plus, they bribe you with free lunch and other goodies! If you are outside the Tampa area, a google search of “trail volunteer” along with you state is a good place to start. For example, “trail volunteer Florida” brings up opportunities such as working on the Florida Trail and other local trails.
There is nothing more rewarding than seeing your hard work pay off with a gorgeous, groomed trail to test out. I love running on the trails I worked on, it’s a great feeling to know that I was a part of keeping them beautiful! It’s time to give back to your trails!