I believe trail runners have an obligation to help maintain
the trails they use.
Since volunteering for worthy causes was one of my family’s
legacies even before I started running, it was simply a “given” that I would
volunteer with the local running club and help maintain trails in the area (at
that time, in the metro Atlanta area and north Georgia) when I started running
Jim has always been an active trail and club volunteer,
too. It’s a lot of work, but fun!
Sometimes eight hours of trail maintenance are required for
us to run certain 100-milers. No problem – we’ve always had plenty of trails we
could work on wherever we lived, and we help with their upkeep even when we
don’t HAVE to.
Sometimes we’re out working when the local park
administrators don’t even know it, moving or cutting out fallen trees and
pruning overgrown weeds and vines, or picking up trash on the trails before city or county workers are aware of problems or can
send personnel to take care of them.
We have a vested interest in keeping the trails nice,
It was mostly volunteers who designed, constructed, and
marked the Appalachian Trail in the 1920s and 1930s. Hiking clubs united by
Benton MacKaye (AT visionary) and new clubs joined together with the AT
Conference, National Park Service, US Forest Service, fourteen state governments, and
the CCC for the huge cooperative effort.
Think that could happen today???
The AT was officially opened in 1937 for all the world to
enjoy, and millions of people have taken the opportunity to walk part or all of this
one-of-a-kind park. It's a national treasure.
Volunteers have continued to play a
pivotal role in maintaining the Trail and its numerous shelters, huts, and
privies ever since. Most are involved with one of the 31 trail maintaining clubs
that are responsible for specific sections of the Trail.
When we moved to Virginia last year,
we joined the Roanoke AT Club (RATC). Our club is responsible for 117 miles of
the AT and five miles of other trails in the area. Click on the round emblem at
the left to access the club's website.
Although we haven’t joined in any of
the RATC’s social or hiking events yet, we have helped construct a composting
toilet at Lambert’s Meadow shelter, cut new trail, and repair wooden bridges
over rock slabs on the way up to McAfee Knob.
It was strenuous work, but
fulfilling. Whenever we run by these projects, we feel a sense of pride that we
helped build them.
Jim and I are also involved with
trail-building projects at Carvin’s Cove; help maintain trails at Explore Park,
Chestnut Ridge, and Mill Mountain; volunteer with the Star City Striders,
Roanoke’s running club; and help as needed at the races we attend nearby and
around the country.
We encourage other runners and their
families to get involved in similar ways. With local, state, and national government funds decreasing for
parks and trails, we’ve got to pick up some of the slack so natural areas will remain
open for recreational use.
End of lecture!