by Caitlyn Ball, AmeriCorps member on the Bear Mountain Trails Project
The summer of 2014 has been engaging.
My fellow trail crew mates and leaders on Bear Mountain all seem to agree that while we love to work hard in the woods and feel the satisfaction of creating sustainable trail on a steep mountainside, the work is challenging.
It is challenging not only because of the energy required to move heavy rocks, buckets of dirt, Canycom (motorized buggies) loads of surfacing, etc., all day long, but because we are diving into the roles of mentors as well.
I love to teach others about subjects they may not be familiar with and ways of accomplishing things that they may not have thought about. As a crew, we came out to Bear Mountain with different talents, levels of experience, manners in which we approach a job, and of course personalities, hair color, number of times we brush our teeth a day, and frequencies with which we consume ice cream per week.
Luckily, we all have a good sense of humor and we can all acknowledge we have been on the upward curve of learning since our start date in May. We are learning new trail building techniques and methods. We are learning how to pass these practices on to others even when the conditions might not be ideal, i.e., hot weather, biting bugs, downpours, and possibly our own lack of energy on a given day.
The volunteers that have been coming out though, are part of our trail building community. Some of them join us on Bear the same day of every week, and some now and then when their busy summer schedule allows. Some arrive as part of a program or an event that was scheduled. Every person who arrives at the Perkins Memorial cul-de-sac ready to work, however, shares a desire to give back to the community. Their enthusiasm to learn and help feeds the enthusiasm of the crew to teach and put them to work!
Recently, the Groundwork Hudson Valley Green Team, a youth group, spent its weekend helping us relocate a trail section and crush stone; many of them learned the techniques behind building a strong multi-tiered crib wall. The team is a delightful group of youth who travel around working and doing good via environmentally based projects, i.e. trail building, community gardens, creating outdoor patios for senior citizens at a home.
The prequel to our weekend with them was a day coordinated to hike the trail with military veterans and participants in the Wounded Warriors Project. The veterans took in the beautiful views the re-route will have to offer and came to see how the finished sections of the Appalachian Trail on Bear Mountain were created. Then they joined us for an afternoon of putting their knowledge into practice, working on the trail; several plan a return date!
It is people that make the world go ’round; let us always remember to learn about ourselves and our world together, and try to make it a better place with the help of one another.