Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sustainability: collaborating with Mother Nature

Today's trail maintenance work made me think of the fine balance between enjoying the outdoors and paying our due respect to Mother Nature. For some environmentalists, we should leave nature untouched. For others, we are entitled to do anything we want with natural resources on the planet. While I'm glad that we have extremists in the first group fighting the damage we, humans, do in the Amazon with deforestation or, closer, in Canada and North Dakota with unspeakable oil or tar sands exploitation (so bad that I'm sure the next generation is going to say about us: "what were you thinking, dudes...?!"), I would argue that "cutting" trails in parks is actually good for both parties, humankind and nature.

Although she can't speak for herself, I'm pretty sure that Mother Nature would confirm that she likes the visit of people respecting her. And, by respect, I don't just mean love but also care. That's another great thing about ultra trail running is that our sport invites us to give back to the trail with such trail maintenance work, since we are often the primary users of these trails, especially the most remote ones.

In our Quicksilver Running Club we are blessed to have leaders and members taking this very seriously. The Club has adopted one of the key trails of the Almaden Quisksilver County Park, New Almaden, a single track which requires a lot of care as it winds across trees and creeks in the San Jose hills. At the head of the yearly program is Paul Fick. Paul is an ultra runner, has directed the Quicksilver 50/50 races, is a chief cook at our ultra races BBQ, and our CTO (Chief Trail Officer)! He has been organizing these trail projects for the past 10 years and has countless story about the history of the park, the club or ultra trail running in Norther California.
We were only 4 volunteers this morning but, thanks to recent rain, the ground was very soft so we accomplished quite a lot. For instance, we widen the trail section which was known as the Tunnel Love because it was entirely covered by poison oak (yes, the poisonous one!) and forming a tunnel above your head. After years of fighting this abundant and dangerous vegetation (sorry Mother Nature...), look at how nice and safer the section now is:
Farther up, Paul had us destroy a trail, that is soften the ground to grass could claim the space back. It felt odd to Jeremy, Tim, Morgan and I to damage such a nice trail and we can certainly say that it takes much less time to eradicate a trail than it takes to build a new one.
3 steps of the trail restoration process:
Now, back to my title, this illustrates the subtle negotiation game between us and nature. In this case, we gave some space back. Otherwise, we worked at reclaiming some inches to widen the existing trail to make it safer for its users. A nice give and take and man-nature balance example. Speaking of negotiation, not that we had much say into it, but I thought it was cool that Mother Nature gave us some good weather all morning while we were working, with rain just starting as we were getting into our cars right on 1 pm! How nice of her!

You can check the dates of the upcoming projects on our newly redesigned club website and we look forward to seeing you not only on the trails but also joining the fun of this volunteering work! For a sustainable negotiation with Mother Nature...


tsbjf said...

Thanks for the pics! Neat to see what you guys were up to. (And appreciative of the group's hard work!)

Jon Olson said...

Awesome work. I saw your "Damaged" trail and it will recover very nicely back to nature.