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Perspectives on Outings -- Giving Something Back
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by Dan Soeder, Chapter Outings Chair | 2012

Outings news from here in West Virginia and from the National Outings Program

We have several service outings on the calendar for this spring. We are co-sponsoring a Monongahela River cleanup effort on March 11, and there is an adopt-a-trail cleanup at Coopers Rock State Forest on April 7. These outings are a wonderful opportunity to give something back to the community, the land, the rivers, and the parks.
Often when we do things outdoors, we only think about the recreational aspects. But trail maintenance takes time and effort. You only have to hike a non-maintained trail once to appreciate the amount of work that goes into keeping it both passable and safe. No matter how well constructed a trail might be, things happen to it out in the woods. Trees fall across the path and have to be removed. Footbridges rot and require rebuilding. Trail markings and blazes fade and have to be re-done periodically. Runoff erodes parts of the trail surface, creating gullies or wet spots. The government agencies that are responsible for the parks, forests and recreation areas don’t usually have the personnel or budgets to do all the required trail maintenance themselves. Volunteer help, like the regular Adopt-A-Trail maintenance work that Ann Devine-King leads at Coopers Rock, is invaluable to the agencies. It also shows that Sierra Club members are willing to do more than just talk about the under-funded state parks and national forests. Members who participate on service outings show that they are actually willing to get out there and do something about it. These activities make a real difference.
I’d like to see the service outings program expand. There is much more that can be done. The Maryland Chapter next door has a busy invasive plant removal program, led by Marc Imlay, a retired botany professor. We are planning to contact the park superintendent at Valley Falls State Park, which has some of the worst-marked trails I have ever seen, and offer to re-blaze them this summer. Sally Wilts’ husband Duane, who is a carpenter by trade, lent his expertise to rebuilding footbridges at Coopers Rock. He commonly takes a saw and pruning shears along on hikes and does impromptu trail maintenance as he goes. The list of what can be done is virtually endless. Anyone with ideas for service outings is encouraged to bring them forward. If it is worth doing and merits the support of the Sierra Club, we’ll get it on the calendar.
On another subject, I got an announcement from the national outings leadership in San Francisco that the Sierra Club is planning some big events to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act in 2014. We need to start planning something for West Virginia. Most of the designated wilderness is out west, in places like Nevada and Utah. However, West Virginia is one of the few eastern states with significant tracts of wilderness, like Dolly Sods, Cranberry, and Otter Creek. These areas are worth honoring and celebrating in 2014. If anyone has ideas for events or presentations, please let me know. It is early enough that we might be able to do something official with the state government, or maybe even someone from the U.S. Department of the Interior.
See you outside!

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