Public Lands Day celebrates the outdoors, with a chance to give back to the land

Volunteer events are being organized throughout September to celebrate National Public Lands Day, which will be held on Sept. 30.

The National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) organizes the day, which is the nation’s largest, single-day volunteer effort for public lands, according to the NEEF website.

“Through NPLD, NEEF works to connect people to public lands in their community, inspire environmental stewardship, and encourage use of public lands for education, recreation, and general health,” states a press release regarding the event.

In the Moab area, a variety of events organized in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) give recreationists a chance to give back to the places where they play, including an event on Sept. 29 that is seeking volunteers for trail building at the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite.

On Sept. 16, Grand County Trail Mix and the BLM created an education mountain bike trail and Moab Friends for Wheelin’ partnered with the BLM to install informational kiosks and fence off sensitive resources along the Black Ridge rock-crawling route.

Sharon Hogan, Trail Mix treasurer, said they hope the educational trail helps with the problem of people riding off-trail.

“Since Scott [Escott, Trail Mix trails coordinator] and I ride these trails all the time and he has built most of them and I’ve done some building, we just get really bummed out when we see tracks off trail … we’ve come to the conclusion that people just don’t know that it’s harmful to the rest of the environment,” Hogan said. “So, with that in mind, that people just don’t know that they’re doing something wrong, we’ve decided to try to make a trail right at the trailhead of the most popular area in Moab to mountain bike, that people can go on and stop at little signs along the way that explain what to do.”

The signs explain how to pass, how to go over an obstacle and how and why to leave a bicycle on the edge of the trail when going off trail to a point of interest.

“You’re allowed to walk wherever you want in the desert and it’s a lot less harmful than riding or taking your bike and leaving a bike track across the desert,” Hogan said. “You’re not really allowed to take your bike off the trail legally.”

On Saturday Sept. 23, the BLM will work with Grand County to rehabilitate land in the Sand Flats area and Westwater Area Volunteers for Excellence (WAVE) will pick up trash and plant vegetation in Westwater Canyon. Red Rock 4-Wheelers will add new trail markers to the Seven Mile Jeep Safari Route.

The BLM will be rerouting a trail at the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite on Saturday, Sept. 29 and is seeking volunteers to help transport trail materials, spread sand and line the trail with rocks.

“We plan on doing a tour of the [dinosaur] tracksite … for people that maybe haven’t seen the tracks or maybe want to learn a little bit more about the tracksite and why we’re adding to the existing trail that we have there,” said BLM district paleontologist and event leader ReBecca Hunt-Foster.

“We have such a great support system of folks that enjoy all the things that are available to do on public land such as recreating or hunting and fishing and all sorts of things. So it’s nice for people to be able to feel like they have a specific day of the year that they can give back, if they’re interested in that,” Hunt-Foster said.

The event will double as a celebration of National Fossil Day, which occurs on Oct. 11, she said.

“National Fossil Day is a day when we celebrate all the wonderful fossils that we have in our country, especially from our public lands,” Hunt-Foster said. The BLM will offer more tracksite tours on Oct. 1 as part of their National Fossil Day festivities, she added.

Volunteers will meet at 8:30 a.m. at the Mill Canyon Tracksite Trailhead, approximately 15 miles north of Moab, according to a BLM press release. Participants are asked to bring work gloves, a water bottle and lunch. Tools, water and National Public Lands Day t-shirts will be provided. The event concludes at 1 p.m.

For more information about the volunteer opportunity at Mill Canyon, contact Hunt-Foster at 435-259-2179 or [email protected]

The BLM expressed appreciation for the volunteers at these and other events.

“The BLM sincerely appreciates our volunteers – we couldn’t do all that we do without their help and passion for good stewardship and shared conservation efforts,” said BLM spokesperson Lisa Bryant in an email.

ByBy Rose Egelhoff

The Times-Independent