I’m grateful there are so many awesome paths in the world, such as the Superior Hiking Trail. But nothing in this world is guaranteed. If we want to continue enjoying a wide variety of hiking trails, then we all need to pitch in. Luckily, there are many ways to help, from using our trails, to helping maintain them, to donating money.
Use the Superior Hiking Trail and Others
This is an easy one for hiking aficionados: go out and hike! Then come back and talk up the trails. So how does this help? Well, governmental entities, businesses and other potential donors are much more interested in helping trails that a lot of people are using. If legislators in my home state of Wisconsin hear little to nothing about the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, they probably won’t be inclined to support bills that funnel money to the trail. However, if their constituents are consistently using the trail, and if towns near and on the trail get a lot of business from hikers, then they have a vested interest in keeping it alive.
Help Maintain the Trails
Next, we need to remember that trails don’t maintain themselves. While paths that pass through national, state or county parks are typically maintained by paid employees, thousands of trail miles wind through other land and must be maintained by volunteers. But even a decent sized group of dedicated volunteers can’t keep every mile of a trail cleared and clipped on any given day. Just think about how quickly your lawn or shrubs can grow after a good rain and some sunshine. Well, the vegetation in and around our trails grows just as quickly. Then throw in natural disasters such as tornados, or animal interference (beaver dams!), and you can see how daunting the task.
So if you don’t mind building boardwalks, painting blazes or cutting back brush, volunteer with a local trail group. Many trail associations, like the Ice Age Trail Alliance, host several main trail-building weekends each year. Since I haven’t been able to make any of these weekends yet, I donate homemade cookies instead. You’ll see there are so many ways you can give back.
Donate Some Money
Now, it’s easy to think you don’t have extra money to donate to a trail group. I’ve been guilty of this in the past. But do I think twice about paying $10 to see a movie or $5 for a latte? Nope. So I’ve decided to donate money to every trail I hike on. Granted, it usually isn’t a lot. But every time I go out, I now send in $5 or $10 or $25 to the trail association. In addition, I believe in supporting your local trails more robustly, so I’ve joined the Ice Age Trail Alliance here in my home state. Today, the annual membership fee is $50, which is about $4 per month. That’s easily affordable, yet helps the trail immensely.
So yes, let’s serve and protect our trails. Because our trails really need us!
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