Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away; and if they could, they would still be destroyed -- chased and hunted down as long as fun or a dollar could be got out of their bark hides, branching horns, or magnificent bole backbones. Few that fell trees plant them; nor would planting avail much towards getting back anything like the noble primeval forests. ... It took more than three thousand years to make some of the trees in these Western woods -- trees that are still standing in perfect strength and beauty, waving and singing in the mighty forests of the Sierra. Through all the wonderful, eventful centuries ... God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods; but he cannot save them from fools -- only Uncle Sam can do that. -- John Muir
John Muir was right, but it takes more than just Uncle Sam to preserve and protect our natural wonders. Many of us (myself included until recently) regularly enjoy the trails, woods, pastures and streams of our national and local parks. But we never spend much time to think about who actually preserves and maintains the trails and parkland that we enjoy. We simply consume and assume that others will ensure that we are able to continue consuming.
This was my belief, and then I was invited to attend a meeting at the NY/NJ Trail Conference and I spoke to many volunteers who have spent the last 10, 15, 20 years volunteering regularly to maintain the trails that I enjoy running on, and build new ones that someday in the future I will enjoy. I began to feel quite selfish for taking so much and not giving back. I signed up and I spent a day on the trails doing the best that I could to give back and it truthfully changed my perspective. It was some of the hardest manual labor I have ever done, and it completely changed my perspective on how important it is that all of us who enjoy the outdoors and nature make an effort to give back to nature.
I for one will be volunteering at least once a month on trail crews with the NY/NJ Trail conference, and on behalf of my trail-running team I have started a new project that I hope will encourage (with a little bribe) more young trail runners, hikers and people who enjoy the trails to give back at least once to see what its all about. Starting now Trail WhippAss will be outfitting trail runners (And others who enjoy nature and are not currently volunteering) with cool t-shirts and other swag to encourage them to spend a day out on the trails not running -- but doing maintenance. We are fairly confident that after you spend one day on a trail crew you'll feel the need to do more.
Please feel free to check out the Trail WhippAss Cares program here: http://trailwhippasscares.org