On the trails: Stewards in training

By Kaitie Eddington

Summer at the Upper Valley Trails Alliance, as always, has been an absolute dream. Our days as a staff are busy with trail work and spending time outdoors in nature with the participants of our Upper Valley High School Trail Corps program.

This season, the UVTA staff has taken five separate crews of high school-age participants out on our local trails to teach them the essentials of trail building and reward their hard work with fun activities. I am always amazed at how quickly these students learn and work tirelessly to accomplish our daily goals. Already this season, we’ve managed to improve about 50 miles of trails because of our dedicated and hardworking participants.

I am reminded of how much I love my job when I spend time outdoors with the kids in my community. To the parents of our trail corps students, I can’t tell you how refreshing it has been to spend time outside on the trails with your kids. They are bright, hardworking, witty, caring individuals who, I don’t doubt, will go on to contribute to the world in meaningful ways.

A key goal of the program is to influence a rising generation of trail stewards who will advocate for the conservation and sustainability of our natural spaces. I am happy to say that many of our participants this year are returnees from previous summers. Outside of this exceptional group of students, UVTA also managed to hire a program alumnus as our summer crew leader for the second summer in a row.

This work inspires me, especially now as people around the world are recognizing the important role nature plays on a person’s mental health. We have witnessed a tremendous increase of trail use these last few months and have been greeted by many on the trails while doing the work.

Unfortunately, due to the continuing coronavirus pandemic, the UVTA made the tough decision to cancel the Stoaked Trail Race and the beloved Tour de Taste. Our seasonal events have become somewhat of a tradition over the years, and we are sad to not be hosting them this year. We value the health and safety of our communities, which is ultimately why we made this decision, but we can’t deny that the loss of funds these events bring in will be felt. Like many other nonprofits, we have had to adapt and find different ways to raise funds to support our programs and projects.

Which is why I have decided to auction my middle name to support the UVTA. I was not given a middle name at birth, and when I tried to give myself one, it backfired terribly. I was telling the trail corps students the funny story when someone suggested I auction off my middle name as a fundraiser. I cannot think of a better way to show support for an amazing organization and honor my trail corps students.

To support the trails alliance and give someone a unique middle name, you can pay $10 to vote on a name and the winner becomes legal. Some of the options: Danger, Lark, Hike-ity Hike Hike, Andromeda Quesadilla — you get the idea. The name with the most votes on September 30 is the winner and will become legally binding. Details at www.uvtrails.org under “Kate Needs a Name.”

To my trail corps students: Thank you for your devotion to the trails in your community. People can destress and access nature because of your hard work. Thank you for inspiring me to auction my middle name — you guys are the best.

Published in the Valley News on September 5th, 2020