My alarm roused me early this past Saturday. I typically prefer the snooze button followed by several strong cups of coffee, but not on this brisk morning. My friend and her two young daughters were picking me up for Forest Park Conservancy’s Spring Day of Stewardship—a workout in nature’s gym was my destination.
My friend was a crew leader and her daughters and I were assigned to the raking group. We were the designated “rakers”—our mission was clearing leaves off the trail. Why rake the forest, you may be asking? After Portland’s wintery weather, leaves and other debris have overtaken the trails which can lead to erosion and trail damage if not properly managed.
A team of nearly 100 strong at four sites throughout the park raked leaves, pulled ivy, and planted trees to enhance the natural beauty and health of Forest Park. My group swapped trail tales, offered running shoe recommendations, and reflected on our urban luck of having over 80 miles of trails in our backyard. The sun even checked in on us occasionally.
A highlight of the day for me was working side by side with kids. The muddy conditions and even a slight chill didn’t deter these ambitious young stewards from getting the job done. Nature deficit was not on the menu this morning—screens were swapped out for rakes, mud puddles, and flora.
My mind wandered to blog posts I’ve written about my trashy runs and the frustration of seeing litter on trails. Pick up one bottle or wrapper and you may find two took its place when you return. There’s a lot of momentum and campaigns focused on cleaning up our wildplaces and neighborhoods (I even started an initiative), but what’s being done to deter the litterers from littering?
While I haven’t given up entirely on the littering ways of adults, my strategy is shifting to kids. If we teach them to love the outdoors, they’ll want to protect and preserve it.
During our Spring Day of Stewardship we absolutely were out there caring for the park we love—where we run, hike, and adventure—but it struck me driving home we did much more than trail maintenance. We shared our love for the outdoors with the younger generation. They saw us out there laughing, having fun, getting muddy, and doing good. This is an enormous gift as adults we can give children.
How do you share outdoorsy love with kids?