Welcome to 2020 everyone. I’m sure everyone has come up with new year resolutions by now. After doing some quick research online it seems that most resolutions involve quitting something or getting something. This is certainly true of those of us who want to improve our health. We want to quit smoking or alcohol or eat less. Others want to be better at a physical activity like running and cycling. We set goals to complete a race, a task or to visit an exotic place.
This year, why not try something different: Resolve to get involved in outdoor issues in your community. It doesn’t have to be about becoming a political or environmental activist. It could be about joining a group of people who are working toward a common goal that improves the outdoor experience in Arkansas. Basically, resolve to get your hands dirty.
There are several ways you can do this in The Natural State. We have hundreds of miles of trails and it takes work to keep them in good shape, waterways need to be cleaned and park land that needs to be spruced up. Here are some ways you can be involved:
- Mountain biking is on the rise in Arkansas and along with that, the International Mountain Bicycling Association endorsed trail advocacy groups. These groups are doing great work at creating and maintaining wonderful trails near you. Even if you don’t ride, most of these trails are open to multiple user types. Join one of these groups, show up for a Trail Love Day, support their boards and meet some great people.
- Ozark Off-Road Cyclists – OORC – (Fayetteville)
- Friends of Arkansas Single Track – FAST – (Bentonville)
- Central Arkansas Trail Alliance – CATA – (Little Rock)
- Central Arkansas Off-Road Group – COG – (Conway)
- Friends of Syllamo Trails – FOST – (Mountain View)
- River Valley OORC – (Russellville)
- Borderline OORC – (Siloam Springs)
- Carroll County OORC – (Eureka Springs)
- Would you like to really learn about the natural resources in Arkansas while also getting some sweat equity in the upkeep of trails and wild places? Check out the Arkansas Master Naturalists. Their mission statement reads: “To develop a corps of well-informed volunteers to provide education, outreach, and service dedicated to the beneficial management of natural resources and natural areas within their communities.” They have chapters throughout the state so you should find a group convenient to you.
- There are a lot of small groups around the state that have adopted specific trails or parks to take care of. Some examples include Friends of the Ouachita Trail (FoOT), Lake Ouachita Vista Trail (LOViT) Trail Dogs, Ozark Highlands Trail Association and TAKAHIK River Valley Hikers. The Arkansas Canoe Club has member-led trips to clean up local waterways. If you’d like to find a group that does work on a local trail your best bet is to contact the landowner/manager, they will know who is doing the work on the property and can usually put you in touch with them.
- Arkansas State Parks also has opportunities to do trail work and other types of work. Many of the parks have friends or volunteer groups. Watch the park Calendar of Events to find volunteer workdays or contact the state park closest to you to get in touch with the friends’ group. Some of these groups are very organized and maintain websites with more information such as Friends of Devil’s Den and Friends of Hobbs.
- Another thing you can do to make a positive impact on outdoor participatory sports in Arkansas is to volunteer at a local race. Races take a lot of work to put on and few get rich from organizing these events. Get a unique perspective on a race you think you might want to do someday, volunteer. Contact the race organizer and let them know you’d like to help. Resolve to help this year and race next year. Find a race to help with on our calendar of events.
This year, instead of just resolving to put the hammer down at the next race, resolve to pick the hammer up and be a part of the great outdoor places we have in Arkansas!