As you might expect, CI’s headquarters in Arlington, Virginia is full of people who live for being outside; after all, our passion for nature is what brought all of us here. Ironically, the demands of our jobs often keep us indoors at our desks.
Luckily, this isn’t always the case. A couple of weeks ago, I joined about 25 CI staff members and volunteers from REI and the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club in McLean, Virginia’s beautiful Turkey Run Park. Less than ten miles from my house in the middle of DC, the park’s thick woods and ample river views felt much further away.
In lieu of going to the office, the members of our team elected to take a “good Samaritan day” to help rebuild some of the park’s degraded hiking trails. After a brief introduction from Mark and Bruce, our team leaders, we picked up clippers, shovels and other mysterious tools whose names I never learned, and got to work.
I spent most of the morning hauling rocks out of the nearby riverbed and depositing them alongside the trail. As a few of us built up the rock pile, others gradually covered it with dirt, widening the trail to about three times its previous size. I was amazed at how quickly our large group was able to transform the section of trail. In only two hours, it went from a foot-wide slippery slope above the stream to a flat path that would allow two visitors to walk side by side.
After lunch, we moved on to another stretch of trail alongside the Potomac, where we worked amid a swarm of thousands of recently-hatched (and harmless) insects, which Bruce insisted only appear for a few weeks each year. Lucky us! Throughout the day, I also spotted toads, crayfish and a variety of smaller creatures living under rocks.
It may seem strange to alter native habitat in order to preserve it, but our wider trail and slightly re-routed stream will help to reduce erosion and hopefully attract more visitors, reminding city-dwellers that they don’t have to go far to experience nature’s beauty. At the end of the day, we piled back in the van, tired but satisfied that we had made a small but tangible difference.