Welcome to 2012 everyone. I’m sure everyone has come up with resolutions by now. Most resolutions I’ve found are very personal. 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 or cycling.
This year, why not try something different: Resolve to get involved in outdoor issues in your community. I’m not talking about becoming a political or environmental activist. I’m talking 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 lots of ways you can do this in Arkansas. We have hundreds of miles of trails and it takes work to keep them in good shape. If you’ve never done trail work, try some of these ideas:
- The International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) Subaru/IMBA Trail Care Crew is conducting two Trail Building School workshops in Arkansas in February. On February 11th they will be at Devil’s Den State Park in Northwest Arkansas and February 25th they will be at White Oak Lake State Park in Southwest Arkansas. “IMBA’s Trail Building School teaches IMBA’s philosophies and trains local volunteers and land managers on how to build and maintain sustainable singletrack. The school involves three hours in the classroom followed by about four hours in the field doing hands-on trail work and field instruction.” The program is completed in one day and both sessions will be conducted on a Saturday. Check the links above to register and to see other programs the Trail Care Crew will be conducting at the parks.
- 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. Here is an example of recent work that the Central Arkansas Chapter has done, CAMN Builds Trails for Wildwood Center for Performing Arts.
- 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. If you’d like to find a group that does work on a local trail your best bet is to contact the land owner/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 work days 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 like Friends of Devil’s Den and Friends of Hobbs. Bull Shoals-White River State Park has a volunteer group with members that have been trained in park interpretation and lead guided tours inside the Bull Shoals Dam.
- 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.
One of Arkansas Outside’s resolutions for this year is to bring you more opportunities to get outside. Besides the normal athletic events, we will be encouraging groups to post meetings, training and volunteer days on our calendar.
So 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!