If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, it does still make a sound. And now it also blocks the path of your favorite hiking trail. Nature, although resilient, cannot clean up after itself. That is why Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado is dedicated to trail construction and maintenance. And as with the best service opportunities, volunteers stand to gain just as much as they give back. Volunteers with VOC learn to foster a deeper appreciation for the infrastructure necessary to get people into wild places.
Established in 1984 by dedicated recreationists who wanted to help maintain their beloved trails, VOC is led today by CEO Chris Nesset, who says that environmental stewardship is key to creating a strong local community. “It creates a sense of connection and commitment to caring,” she says. This, in turn, leads to better outdoor access, healthier communities, better maintained resources, more educated recreational users—even more active voters and a greater sense of community.
From mudslides to meandering hikers causing erosion, trails face inevitable degradation. When a trail’s boundaries become less clear, people begin to make their own paths. These so-called “social trails” ultimately harm the flora that’s now underfoot. To help keep people in line, VOC works to maintain trails, in turn providing Coloradans with more chances to immerse in the outdoors. Volunteer projects range from installing a structure to hold the trail in place to digging the trail’s surface to allow water to flow off the path. With 58 fourteeners, 42 state parks, 13 national forests and grasslands, and 13 national parks and monuments, Colorado has over 39,000 miles of hiking trails—that’s a lot of land to cover. The United States Forest Service faces limited government funding, so volunteers are always needed.
From Pike’s Peak to Pagosa Springs, Colorado trail maintenance depends on volunteers. Without volunteers and the aid of local organizations, trails inevitably become overgrown and unusable. If you’re interested in helping keep things in check, VOC has over a hundred opportunities for you to lend a hand this summer, from trail maintenance to invasive species removal, campsite monitoring, and more.