Sunday, May 17, 2020

volunteering

I climbed up to the top of the moraine, taking a cross country route I had never hiked before. The mountains popped into view. Though I have been up here many times, it never gets old.

I'm a volunteer land steward for the Wallowa Land Trust, working on a piece of ground that was recently acquired from a private landowner, using in part funds donated from the community. Now it's time to see what's there, and a habitat survey is part of the project.

I'm not good at this, not really, although I can definitely tell wetlands from the Doug fir forest and the shrubby bits from the grasslands. There's a lot more to it, of course. There's a classification system, and other things I don't really get. I'm more interested in the big picture: this flat area we cross used to be the site of the rodeo grounds, for example. There's an old spring box. Many old roads cross the landscape but are growing in--if you didn't know what to look for, you would miss them.

My survey buddy
I like being part of taking care of a piece of ground. I don't really feel like I have much time for volunteering, but I hike there, and hikers are, unfortunately, notoriously cheap with their money and time. "My taxes should pay for trail maintenance," my neighbor says, "I'm not going to do it." I just sigh because he is right, but they don't, and there are no trail fairies as far as I know. Other community members will park on the other side of the fee sign ($30 for a year doesn't seem like a lot) and hike onto the trail that those fee dollars go toward maintaining. It's good to give back sometimes, so even though I would rather be backpacking this weekend, I'm out doing this survey. I run here all the time, and I want it to stay accessible to me and everyone else.

There's nobody out here, just us and the wind and an approaching storm. I volunteered yesterday too, giving a writing workshop. I donated my portion of the cost to the foundation that held it. Not because I am a wonderful person, but because I had help along the way to becoming a published author, and I want to help others. Volunteering is a way to feel better in a world that doesn't feel all that great right now.

Being a volunteer land steward when I used to get paid to do this kind of work is kind of strange, but it connects me to this place. Connections seem frayed right now, our county divided down party lines. I want all the help I can get. This place, and saving it for the community, we can agree on. That, at least, is something.

10 comments:

  1. What a wonderful way to give to something that you live and appreciate! We might grumble about the fees but we pay them and don’t try to cheat! :-). We probably should start volunteering also!!

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    1. I wish the agencies were better at telling their stories. The fees actually fund a seasonal person here, a local, who would not have a job otherwise, to clean the toilets and to work on trails. But most people do not realize this.

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    2. Maybe a local writer could do a story on this for the paper!

      Tom
      Fairbanks

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  2. Good for you for giving back to the trails. This is something I hope to do once I'm retired (maybe the end of this year, we'll see). And I've never had a problem with paying for a parking permit to hike because I know the money to maintain things has to come from somewhere.

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    1. It is inherently selfish because I want the area to still be open for all of us!

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  3. Good on you for volunteering. I have participated in a few trail work parties organized by mountain bike groups. It seems like such functions will be curtailed for a while, and combined with funding cuts, I do wonder how such work will continue.

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    1. I am seeing the same here. Luckily this work can be done solo, or more realistically, my husband will have to mountain bike some of the trails in order to get it all done quickly. (Not a hardship).

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  4. Our trails are mostly in National Parks and are looked after by park officers. They are well maintained but we don't have the length and diversity of trails that you have on offer. I did some googling however, to see if there are volunteer groups and just this week as it is Volunteer Week, Parks have advertised that help is always welcome. Thanks for helping me become aware, Mary.

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    1. It is nice they have a budget to maintain trails. In most cases that is not true here. The demand to hike is here but not the money to keep up and people get angry at the forest staff. It's not their fault.

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  5. It's certainly interesting that there is no money for maintaining trails, so the federal agencies are charging to park at trailheads, but there always seems to be money to maintain their office parking lots. Employees of these agencies should be charged to park at their offices...to help pay for sweeping, striping, signage, etc. When they do, and log trucks and cattle trucks start paying to park on federal lands, then I will start paying to use my public lands beyond the taxes I pay.

    Sorry, but this is a real sore point for me. Do people in the military pay to park on their bases? Usually not. There's money to maintain trails. It's just being used to pay off corrupt corporate leaders, etc. .

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