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National Trails Day: California's Sonoma County Community Gives Back

Accompanied by a radiant sun and cool breeze, more than 40 caring individuals celebrated National Trails Day® last Saturday during a 6-hour workday at Willow Creek People Powered Park, part of Sonoma Coast State Park.

National Trails Day EventUsing McLeods, weed whackers, pulaskis and rakes, the volunteers joined the REI Santa Rosa team, LandPaths and Sonoma County Trails Council to beautify and restore Watershed Vista Trail—a local multiuse spot that would be closed if not for LandPaths' dedicated volunteers and permit-for-use program.

Committed to fostering a love of the land in Sonoma County, LandPaths coordinates local public outings and volunteer stewardship projects, including last week's event at Sonoma Coast State Park.

The organization works with State Parks to manage access and stewardship at Willow Creek, issuing more than 4,700 permits to outdoor enthusiasts since 2005. The permit process encourages and invites users—from hikers, bikers and horseback riders—to become park stewards. LandPaths is a 3-time REI grant recipient and partner to the co-op since 2005.

Last Saturday's event recruited both children and adults, including Boy Scouts, previous LandPath volunteers, and bilingual employees and families. Employees from LandPath and Sonoma County Trails led volunteers through a safety talk and permit orientation, and shared interesting insights about the park in English and Spanish—marking their first large-scale wildland service project that was fully bilingual.

National Trails Day Event"We consider our programs a catalyst to connecting people with the outdoors, and hope these projects entice volunteers and their families to come back to these trails," said Jonathan Glass, LandPaths field programs director.

"With REI's support, we are able to help steward lands so they are open to everyone in the community to enjoy. As a recognizable business that invests in their local communities, REI brings a new level of validity to our workdays."

To make the trail more accessible and sustainable, volunteers were directed to cut back branches along the pathway and improve drainage. They had improved nearly half of the 3/4-mile trail by lunchtime.

The remaining volunteers completed the task later in the afternoon and were awarded with the ultimate payoff: a viewpoint reigning over Willow Creek watershed, Islands in the Sky Ridge, Coleman Valley Ridge and out to the Pacific Ocean.

Karin Albrecht, REI Santa Rosa outreach specialist, spent the day working with another REI employee to eliminate roots that were sticking out near the entry gate.

"It's so refreshing to see organizations come together for the ultimate goal of taking care of our community places," she said. "I'm new to the area and volunteering with others who enjoy the outdoors has been a great way for me to learn more about my local parks and other places to go in Sonoma County."

National Trails Day VolunteerKarin also conveyed an appreciation for witnessing the younger volunteers who expressed their curiosity by asking questions about every aspect of the service project, from the flora and fauna to the tools used throughout the day. 

"They are our future and seeing them make a connection to being part of the community and giving back was really special," she said.

Each participant received one of REI's coveted "Get Dirty" T-shirts and earned a free pass to return to the park on their own. Volunteers also qualified to win one of 5 prizes, including an REI Flash 18 Pack to an REI Trail Stool.

This year, REI stores across the country partnered with local nonprofit organizations to host similar National Trails Day events, promoting more than 60 events.

If you joined a recent National Trails Day or volunteer event, please share your stories with us. To earn your own "Get Dirty" T-shirt, visit your local store page on REI.com and find an upcoming REI-hosted volunteer project in your community.

Posted on at 5:49 PM

Tagged: LandPaths, National Trails Day, rei, stewardship and volunteer

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