Trail Stewardship Volunteering
By: Hallie Jones
Executive Director, Laguna Canyon Foundation
July 16, 2020
About this time each year, as Laguna Canyon Foundation’s fiscal year ends and our stewardship programs take a hiatus for the hot summer months, we share accomplishments and statistics from the season (linear feet of improved trail tread, number of drains installed on trails, volunteer hours, etc.). Last year, prior to reporting the stats, our Outreach Director, Paula Olson, shared a different type of accomplishment: making friends.
We don’t just get work done—we build community. We’ve built a dedicated, hard-working community of trail volunteers who commit their weekend days to strenuous, dusty, fly-ridden and fun trail work to protect this wilderness for the native flora and fauna and for all of us.
As the non-profit supporting partner for Orange County Parks’ Laguna Coast Wilderness and Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Parks, Laguna Canyon Foundation manages all volunteer activities for these two parks, including guided hikes and rides, habitat restoration and of course, trail stewardship.
There are two ways you can get out on the trails and make a difference:
· Short-term volunteers are there just for the day. Maybe they’ll come out for a few days to join an organized event and give back. Many of our short-term volunteers enjoy their time so much that they decide to become long-term volunteers.
· Certified, long-term volunteers. Requirements to become a certified long-term volunteer include attending three public events as a short-term volunteer, completing training and orientation, becoming CPR/First Aid certified, submitting to a background check, and committing to at least three hours of volunteering per month.
During our 2019 – 2020 season, our trail events were often at full capacity. Working with OC Parks and understanding the stewardship that needed to be done on the authorized trails in both parks, we were on the cusp of planning more trail days and more orientations to accommodate the increased interest in trail volunteering.
Then, in March 2020, COVID-19 hit.
As the community at-large sheltered in place for weeks and months on-end, people found alternative ways to get exercise. The trails became more and more popular with hikers, bikers, birders, photographers, and people just wanting a new outdoor experience.
The interest in volunteering has continued to grow – particularly for trail work – but we remain limited by both COVID-19 safety protocols and the heat of the summer. With this week’s announcement from Governor Newsom, we anticipate public volunteering programs and certainly indoor gatherings like a Volunteer Orientation could be suspended, perhaps, until early 2021.
In our discussions with OC Parks and mountain biking community leaders, we realize that COVID-19 precautions mean we just can’t have public events. As David Browning has said, we are in the “roster building phase.” We don’t want to miss the opportunity to reach out to people like you, who might be interested in helping on the trails and we need to keep our community safe.
If you are interested in volunteering for trail work (or any other type of volunteering) in Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park or Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, please visit Laguna Canyon Foundation’s webpage to learn more. We’ll be gathering names and contact info and we’ll be working with OC Parks to get our volunteer programs up and running again when it is safe to do so.
We look forward to “meeting” you, even if only digitally for now. In the meantime, be well, take care of each other, visit the parks responsibility, and take OCMTBA’s Fresh Tracks survey.