On the Trails: Always care for your playground

By Lucas Gatterman

As a Dartmouth College student, I have often been transient in the Hanover area — moving in and out with the changing of the Dartmouth term. Over the past two years, the outdoors has been a space that allows me to find peace and relaxation, whether I have been living in London or in Albuquerque, N.M.

Even though nature has been a part of my life, I had assumed the spaces never needed anything more than folks to walk or run on trails to maintain them.

Boy, was I wrong.

I’ve spent my summer as an intern with the Upper Valley Trails Alliance (UVTA) and, through this experience, have grown to see the outdoors as a giant playroom. I remember being able to play with my sister in our family room, our parents not questioning what we did as long as no one was crying at the end of the day. All our parents asked for in return was my sister and I to pick up after ourselves.

The outdoors will always be a bit messy, that is a given. A little mess, like my family room, never hurt anyone. The issue comes when we become complacent in not caring for our shared spaces.

Outdoor spaces, such as trails and campsites, deserve some TLC from all of us, whether that means rebuilding a bridge or just making sure we stay on the marked trails. Little actions we take daily will ensure our shared playroom will stay the space we all love and appreciate.

The UVTA has more experience than most in maintaining outdoor spaces and can take on the bigger projects. Part of the UVTA’s mission is to ensure the outdoors are maintained and publicly accessible to all, no matter experience or location.

In my short time working with the UVTA, I have seen the logistics and effort that go into protecting a public network of trails for the Upper Valley. These efforts in protecting public trails are more than most people would imagine, both ensuring trails are brought up to the quality we have come to expect in the Upper Valley and limiting environmental impact. Without organizations caring and advocating for these spaces, they can quickly fall into disrepair and become inaccessible to the communities that value them.

The steps we take to help conserve the outdoors allow those who feel peace and relaxation in nature to do so. I ask that we all take care of our shared playroom by taking small actions like staying on the trail, carrying out waste and litter and being mindful of wildlife and other users. I also ask that if you have the ability to help, support your local trail or outdoor organization to keep these spaces available to all.

Written by Lucas Gatterman, Summer Intern at the Upper Valley Trails Alliance, and published in the Valley News on 08/07/2022.