The first time I worked with conservation volunteers, I led a group of high school students on a long-term volunteer trail project. As my students learned to use tools, cut tread and spend all day in the woods, I watched something amazing happen. At first, they were hesitant and shy, holding back when hikers came down the trail. I talked to all the hikers, bikers and trail runners, educating them about our trail work. As the weeks went by, my group started to open up. They became knowledgeable, articulate and excited about what they were doing. Even my shyest students started jumping at the chance to chat with hikers, and those hikers became so engaged. Hearing directly from volunteers why we should stay on the trail, why this work matters and why we should leave no trace created a powerful connection to the land for recreationists. They saw how hard my students were working, and I saw it make a huge impression on many trail visitors.
As spring turns to summer, San Juan Mountains Association is hard at work preparing for a successful season. At SJMA, we want to create those experiences where volunteers can share their perspective with San Juan National Forest visitors. I know that volunteers can have a huge impact on how people connect to and use our public lands. Visitors see how you care for the land and know you are there because of that passion.
This summer, we’ll have six different ways to volunteer with SJMA on our public lands. There is so much to do, but so many different ways to contribute. If each SJMA volunteer plays to their strengths, we can accomplish even more. If you’re interested in helping out, but don’t know where to begin, I’ve created a quick overview that will help you decide.
Do you love chatting with strangers, always excited to hear a new story and make a new friend? Volunteer to be a San Juan Trailhead Ambassador at Blue Lakes or Ice Lakes.
Do you typically work alone, prefer to roam the forest in silence, drawn to the quiet parts of our Wilderness areas? Volunteer to help with Wilderness solitude monitoring.
Do you live for summer backpacking months, riding the train into the Weminuche Wilderness and hiking to new alpine lakes every year Volunteer for the base camp at Chicago Basin.
Do you light up when you work with kids, love helping the next generation explore the San Juans, and feel passionately about science education? Volunteer with our education program – After-School Science Ramblers or school field trips.
Are you always the “host” friend, looking for any chance to welcome friends, new and old? Volunteer as a Durango Nature Center docent – a program returning for the first time since SJMA merged with Durango Nature Studies.
Are you one of those hikers who loves to identify each flower, tree, and rock, talking about ecology and our environment? Volunteer as an interpretive naturalist on our summer nature walks.
Do you want to protect our public lands, but prefer to work on your own schedule and drive rather than hike? Volunteer with our Adopt-A-Road program.
However you decide to volunteer, know that we couldn’t do any of this without you. Sign up for volunteer training and shifts for this summer at https://sjma.volunteerlocal.com. This will also ensure that you are notified of emerging opportunities. You can reach me directly at email@example.com if you have any questions or ideas!
Marly Saunders is the volunteer coordinator for San Juan Mountains Association and is excited to see you out on the trails this summer.