Last weekend on National Trails Day, a Juneau trail maintenance nonprofit gave residents a chance to give back to the trails that have helped them stay connected to nature during the pandemic. .
At the Lemon Creek trailhead, about 30 volunteers picked up shovels, saws, pickaxes, and pulaskis and set off. Smaller groups formed at problem spots, such as where a rotting tree stump took more than half a trail or a downed log forced hikers to climb over it.
Trail Mix, Inc. Executive Director Ryan O’Shaughnessy says days like these are a chance for trail users to see what’s going on in the upkeep of Juneau’s outdoor spaces – and to give back.
“I just think our trails are an invaluable community resource, and it’s really, really cool to see people coming together and enjoying them and improving them and contributing to our community,” he said.
June 4 was Trail Mix’s first volunteer day in nearly three years. On open call days, volunteers—no experience required—work on small maintenance projects that don’t require a full track crew.
While a trail crew might take on big jobs like uncovering sections buried by landslides, volunteer days deal with small issues — like water running over a trail or downed trees blocking the path.
Dan Parks of Southeast Alaska Independent Living, who runs the Outdoor Recreation Community Access program, had never volunteered with Trail Mix before. But he’s spent a lot of time on the Juneau trails, and he says he appreciates the work the Trail Mix team does.
“You can visibly see, just walking the trail, whether they’ve been there or not,” Parks said. He says he hopes Saturday will be the “first of many” days of volunteering with Trail Mix.
Mark Pusich, chairman of the Trail Mix board, says trail usage has increased during the pandemic. There have been no open volunteer days since the summer of 2019, but he says people have shown their appreciation through financial support – the number of regular donors has fallen from around 450 before the pandemic to almost 800 today.
And Saturday’s above-normal turnout was also a good sign of the community’s willingness to get involved.
After four hours, the group of 30 people had cleared a rock and a tree stump and diverted water in three places. About a mile up the Lemon Creek trail a few downed trees still lay across the path. There is still a lot of work to do.
Although Trail Mix does not have another open call day scheduled at this time, there are other opportunities for people to help take care of Juneau’s trails. One is a new initiative called Trail Stewards, where volunteers can sign up in groups of five or more to “adopt a trail” and work on it once or twice a month.