Unexpected Benefits of Trail Work

September 7, 2021

By Emalee Gruss Gillis, Conservancy Volunteer

Keith Marion experienced one surprise after another when he volunteered to work on the trails at Waikiki Springs Nature Preserve for the Inland Northwest Land Conservancy. His first surprise was the dress code for trail work. He had showed up to work in shorts. The Conservancy requires volunteers to wear long pants for safety reasons. He also hadn’t filled out the necessary paperwork. Keith was not deterred. He went home, changed into long pants, filled out the paperwork and hustled back to the site.

The biggest surprise Keith experienced in his work at Waikiki Springs this summer was how his team accomplished things he thought would be impossible. For example, Keith worked with several other volunteers to move a rock that he estimated weighed at least 1,200 pounds. Keith and his coworkers used hand tools to pry under the rock and pushed at the same time. In addition to pushing that huge rock, the team was able to pick up rocks, as big as a kitchen table, using a net, and move them to another spot. Keith witnessed first-hand that when people work together, the seemingly impossible, is possible.

Deeply invested in his home turf, Keith lives in the Fairwood neighborhood which backs up to the Preserve. The new trail will provide beautiful places for him to run. But Keith recognizes that the volunteer work will be a benefit to the community. Even while the team worked to build the trail, people were using the it and thanking the work crew for their efforts. Friends, neighbors and people with love of the outdoors will benefit as they take time to enjoy a walk, hike, or bike ride on the new trail–a gift to the community.

Keith personally benefitted from the trail building in ways he hadn’t anticipated. For example, he learned about the geology of the rocks he moved. He learned that there are three types of rocks on the reserve that were distributed there at different geologic periods. While the group worked, stories were told. Keith learned that at one point the Little Spokane River which borders Waikiki was so full of salmon that locals wanted to name a community near the river Salmonopolis. He learned more about the current efforts to reintroduce salmon into the area. Keith also learned about the more recent history of the area when he heard talk as he worked about the dairy farm whose foundations can still be found at the preserve as well as the Bozarth mansion. Another benefit to his trail building was he met people on the trail who lived in his neighborhood as well as people from other parts of the area.

Keith found it inspiring that there were people working on the trail that were in their seventies and one man was in his eighties. He said the intensity of the work varied by task and everyone was able to find a task that met their physical ability. There is work on the trail for all abilities.

More than anything, after Keith’s experiences, he felt his sense of connection expanded. After his volunteer work, he felt more connected to the history, geology, wildlife and the people of the area. Building trails turned out to be all about building connections and connections are what makes a human life so much more full, so much more rich.