Volunteers are, by definition, those who willingly render service without expectation of compensation. While raising my sons, there came a summer when I forced them out of the house into the real world of volunteerism. In my household back in the day, the phrase ‘willingly render service’ was up for debate, but they were out of the house nonetheless. Challenged to find work for my young men, I thankfully discovered the good people at the Christian Center of Park City’s food pantry were willing to put to work a set of cantankerous teenaged boys. I know full well that my boys’ behavior improved as soon as I drove away – and I also know that the nice folks at the food pantry were patient and kind even while slowed down by their new helpers. Seven years later, those grouchy teenagers are wonderful young men (bias acknowledged), just barely enlightened enough to now admit the benefits they derived from getting out of their own heads and serving others.
So it is at this time every year, when MTF receives an abundance of requests from volunteers eager to work on trails, that I step back to consider the significance of volunteerism to MTF and to society. Volunteerism is strategically valuable not only in getting trial work done, but also in developing a positive trail culture. It is against these immense benefits that the challenges presented by volunteer events are weighed. Dig Days can be logistically challenging and also time intensive for our already overly-committed crew. Yet in acknowledging the societal gains and our duty to community, MTF has committed to monthly Dig Days and several Trailhead Meet & Greets throughout the coming summer.
Yet, never to turn away a set of helping hands, I hereby propose an addition to the way volunteers are utilized for the benefit of trails. It takes the management of volunteers out of the crew’s hands and puts it in the public’s hands. . . literally. It’s the Everyday Volunteer Program, organized by citizens at large and fully funded by goodwill and ambition. It works like this. . .
Everyday Volunteers, first and always, offer a friendly smile and a positive word to fellow trail users – this is the easiest part because it is highly infectious and already common practice. Everyday Volunteers can also bring a set of pruners to gently and modestly clip back that nasty overhanging snag or shin-grabber. Everyday Volunteers pick up extra dog waste, perform random 10-minute trailhead tidy-ups, submit beautiful photos for the MTF photo contest/content library, and stop to send MTF a pin drop where there is a blow-down or trail safety problem.
And the real glory of the Everyday Volunteer Program is that it is perfectly flexible, replicable, performed in a mostly-convenient moment by trail users of any age or ability and has enormous, meaningful and expanding impact.
On behalf all trail users, we extend gratitude in advance to the Everyday Volunteers who make our trails what they are: wonderful community spaces!
I look forward to seeing you out there. . . every day.