We’ve all been on a trail in need of repair, whether damaged by erosion or blocked by fallen trees. Many of us don’t think twice about the people who work hard to make those repairs, people who are usually volunteers.A recent SITKA Ecosystem grant has gone to help one group of these volunteers, the Bozeman Trail Crew, purchase the equipment they need to properly and efficiently maintain a complex and well-trodden trail system around our home in Bozeman, Montana.
“Over the years we’ve invested thousands of dollars of our own money purchasing custom trail work bikes, chainsaws, tools, clothing, gear and everything else required to complete these tasks we set before us each summer,” says Bozeman Trail Crew member Justin Hardine. “The help from SITKA has placed more focus on trail clearing and allows us to be more efficient, comfortable, and enjoy our time spent on the trails that much more.”Hardine’s passion for volunteering and for working hard to keep local trails in ship-shape stem from a lifelong love of riding bikes.
“The trails didn’t become a place of clarity, peace, and pure happiness until later in life, but the love of two wheels started very early on,” he says. “These early days would blossom into a life-long love for riding and everything it encompasses. One time or another we have all been there while out on our local trails or exploring uncharted territory; the feeling of uninterrupted, care-free moments of complete contentedness, with the day’s challenges taking a back seat to living here and now.”Trails give us all the chance to experience this blissful feeling of being at one with nature, but good trails serve other purposes as well. Most obviously, they give a wide variety of people access to nature, whether those people be hunters, bikers, or hikers. Secondly, well-maintained trails protect the surrounding ecosystem by combating erosion and discouraging people from venturing off-trail into delicate surroundings. Keeping a complicated trail system like the one in Bozeman well-maintained, though, takes a ton of hard work that most trail users likely don’t consider.“There is always a trail that needs attention and never enough individuals to help keep it maintained for the safety of the users and the health of the forest,” says Hardine. “There aren’t very many of us who find joy amidst the pain and suffering that comes along with carrying a chainsaw, fuel, oil, first aid, water, food, spare clothing, tools, and so on. You do it because you love the way it makes you feel. The sense of accomplishment after spending a hard day in the backcountry is a high that is hard to match.”In addition to grant money, we’ve committed to outfitting the Trail Crew in workwear built to endure the abuse associated with work like this.
“Through my work, I’ve met quite a few people who have been using SITKA gear in a manner not only geared towards hunting but also as work attire,” Hardine says.If you’re looking to get involved yourself, Hardine says the best way is to join a local bike organization for a trail work day. “I guarantee you will meet amazing people who are passionate and can help steer you in the right direction,” he says. “Volunteering has brought a new level of excitement and adventure into my life.”