There's no doubt volunteer work essential to our park lands.
Thanksgiving is now a couple days behind us. Turkey was consumed in mass quantities, and "Black Friday" was spent either standing in long lines waiting for a bargain, or more hopefully, spent outdoors working off Thanksgiving dinner.
"Giving thanks" is a usual tradition, and that's what I'm here to do. I'm not going to bore you with stories about my family and how I'm thankful for them — that's a given. Instead, I'm giving thanks to the people who help make our parks and trails enjoyable and usable.
Our federal, state, county and city park systems have hard working staff who maintain our public lands. But any of those groups will tell you that they wouldn't be able to accomplish much past their basic functions without the help of many dedicated volunteers. Volunteers have become the backbone of many parks departments, "friends" groups and other organizations that work in the outdoors. Volunteers help plan, execute and fund-raise projects in parks. They greet visitors, conduct kids camps and classes and take visitors on hikes. They help clean the parks and fix trails damaged by overuse, fire or floods.
It's easy to say that volunteers are valuable, but how valuable — in dollars, cents and hours worked — are they? In 2016, according to the Colorado Springs Parks Department, 5,000 volunteers have performed 150,000 hours of service, an estimated value of $3.45 million.
"We are truly Thankful for all of our extraordinary volunteers who serve our community and our Park System" says city parks director Karen Palus in an email.
The El Paso County Parks system projects 33,000 hours of volunteer time with an estimated value of almost $600,000 in 2016.
"Obviously, our volunteerism is incredibly valuable to us," says Tim Wolken, community services department director.
The Rocky Mountain Field Institute
does work in city, county and federal lands, and relies heavily on volunteers to carry out their projects. According to volunteer coordinator Molly Mazel, volunteers worked 14, 429 hours, worth more than $339,000 this year.
So while you're burning off that second helping of stuffing this weekend and enjoying the outdoors, be thankful for the volunteers who make your outings more enjoyable.
Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for 25 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: firstname.lastname@example.org.