Finding Time For Stewardship

Over the past 25-plus years, I have been involved in recreational conservation and stewardship. Whether it has been building a new trail, rerouting or closing off a trail, or something simple as picking up trash. Looking back, I would say that my exposure to conservation and stewardship was through Scouting. Service projects, merit badges, and rank requirements all had some element of conservation and stewardship in them as a requirement.

It seems that since the pandemic, there has been an increase in the volume of people using public lands. People getting outside in nature has positive effects. But there have also been negative effects that have stemmed from so many people using public lands. It does matter if the public land is a national park, state natural resources, or a local park. All of these public lands have seen the impact of increased use. I believe most of this is from a lack of knowledge. But sometimes I wonder...

I set out this year to volunteer my time to support one stewardship event each month. It seemed simple enough to give up a few hours one weekend a month. Participating in trail work, invasive plant removal, and trash pick-up. Plus, it would be a great way to network with other outdoor enthusiasts.

With family commitments, normal life, and taking the time to enjoy my own outdoor activities. I found the simple act, of giving back a few hours each month harder to do than said. I needed to find a simple way, I could do on my own and make a difference. More importantly for me, I could see the result of my effort.

It just so happens that I saw it on the Leave No Trace website. That April was their international #LeaveNoTrash movement. A pledge to pick up 30 pieces of trash this Earth Month. Now, I had something that I could be a part of even if I was doing this on my own. There are also #LeaveNoTrash events.

NOTE: Sign the pledge and an interactive map will pop up that will show you when and where these events are taking place near you.

I have the luxury of being able to work out and train as part of my workday. My plan was to take an active recovery day and incorporate my #LeaveNoTrash pledge. No better time and place to do this was on a Monday after a nice weekend on Belles Isle. Belles Isle sits in the middle of the James River in the heart of downtown Richmond Virginia. This area of the James River Park System is very popular, and I knew that picking up trash would not be an issue.

As I entered the maze of trails on the island, I realized that my 30 pieces of trash goal would be quickly met. So much so that I stopped counting. One location on the island that I wanted to address was an area on the upper part of the island. This spot overlooks a pond on the island.  The image above shows that location. The before-and-after images show what a big difference just picking up trash can make. 

That image is a great example of an unhealthy landscape. This is due to not only trash being left behind, but also a result of overuse, an illegal fire, and graffiti on the rocks. Not only does this damage the resources, but it also takes away from other users' experience. 

Unfortunately, our public lands are understaffed and lack the resources to conduct general maintenance. Because of this, many public lands have a friends group or volunteer group that helps the park staff with various stewardship projects. Picking up trash or reporting trail hazards is something all of us can fit into our outdoor schedule and it makes a difference. 

Kayaker's Enjoying a Early Morning Float on the James River
Kayakers Enjoying an Early Moring Float.

Finding time for stewardship was there all along. I just need to adjust my thoughts on how I incorporate it into my outdoor lifestyle. Plan ahead, pack a few resources, and focus on one effort.

The results from the LeaveNoTrash pledge reported by Leave No Trace

10,689 people
320,670 pieces of trash
9,897.4 pounds of trash


Now It's Your Turn:

Please leave a comment on your stewardship efforts. What service project did you help support and what was the result? What group did you help support? How do you manage to find time for stewardship?


Popular Post