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Get Dirty and Give Back to Your Local Trails

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Photograph by Avery Stonich

I’m guessing that you’ve got a few favorite and well-loved trails in your neck of the woods. Maybe it’s time pitch in and help maintain them? This isn’t any sort of guilt trip, so you can keep reading. I’m the first to admit that I don’t roll up my sleeves often enough to contribute to my local trails. We’re all busy, and usually a long hike or ride takes precedence over getting sweaty and dusty swinging a pulaski. (For those who don’t know, that’s a tool that’s handy for busting up earth and prying out rocks.)

Yet I know that volunteer labor is critical for trail maintenance. Our public agencies can’t do it all. Heck, Boulder County Parks and Open Space—one of my local agencies—has more than 110 miles of trail to maintain. So when asked if I wanted to participate in an outdoor industry volunteer day at Boulder County’s Heil Valley Ranch, I said, “Yes!” right away. Nine of us Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) staffers jumped at the chance to dig in the dirt and put our muscles where our mouths are.

The Conservation Alliance organized the event, called the “Backyard Collective.” In case you don’t know them already, the Conservation Alliance is a group of outdoor industry companies that pool their resources (i.e., member dues) to support grassroots environmental organizations. OIA has been a member since 1991. The Conservation Alliance has contributed more than $10 million to grassroots conservation groups throughout North America. This year alone they’ve already awarded $600,000 to organizations working to permanently protect wild places, and they’re planning another $700,000 of grants in early October.

Now in its fourth year, the Backyard Collective is a series of volunteer days to bring together member company employees and local grantees for a day of environmental action. This year the Conservation Alliance is hosting eight Backyard Collective events, in Santa Barbara, Marin County, Boulder, Portland (Ore.), Bend, Peterborough (N.H.) Seattle, and Vancouver.

The Boulder event was a huge success, with 107 volunteers from 11 companies and organizations, including American Recreation Company, Backpacker’s Pantry, International Mountain Bicycling Association, Nite Ize, La Sportiva, OIA, Osprey, Sea to Summit, and SmartWool. A couple of Conservation Alliance grant recipients, the Colorado Mountain Club, and the Colorado Environmental Coalition, also joined in the fun.

Many hands make for light work: In just over three hours, we busted out 150 feet of new trail on a reroute, completed 700 feet of armoring, built nine new rock structures, and reclaimed 1,500 feet of trail.

I had a lot of fun: I spent all morning outside, I put some sweat equity into a trail I love to ride, I met some cool industry peeps, and I got some sore muscles and blisters. But best of all, I gave back to the community I love while lending a hand to an organization that does important work. Win-win-win!

Want to support the Conservation Alliance? You don’t have to be in the outdoor industry to contribute to their valuable efforts. Check out the Conservation Alliance website to learn more. And consider signing up for a trail event in your own backyard.

Avery Stonich is communications manager for Outdoor Industry Association. Follow us on twitter: @OIA and @averystonich