TRUCKEE, Calif. — Each year thousands of residents and visitors take advantage of Truckee’s extensive trail system. Few are aware of the hours of volunteer labor that ensure trails remain sustainable, safe, and environmentally sound.
“Every form of recreation requires up-keep and maintenance of some sort. Trails are no different than ski resorts, golf courses, or swimming pools requiring maintenance,” said Allison Pedley, executive director of the Truckee Trails Foundation (TTF). “The only difference is, there are no built-in fees for hiking on trails, so trail maintenance relies largely on volunteer labor.”
Nature is constantly working to regain the footpath, and the wear and tear of Truckee winters can create particularly unique maintenance needs. Trees blow down in storms, shrubs can grow into the trail, and erosion from snowmelt removes the soil, leaving behind bare rocks, according to Pedley. Sometimes the solution is simple; other times it may require an entire re-routing of a portion of the trail.
To this end, TTF and the Truckee Donner Land Trust (TDLT) have formed a dirt trail building and maintenance program called “Good Dirty Fun,” currently in its third year of operation. Since its inception, the program has brought in around 75 volunteers for more than 1,000 volunteer hours each year.
“Crews meet at 4 p.m. on Wednesdays at a designated location, work for a few hours, and then often meet up at Cottonwood for a quick, happy hour bonus,” said Pedley. “Mike Blide doesn’t seem to mind a few dusty trail workers in his bar.”
Those who have participated on a Good Dirty Fun crew find that between the challenging work, trail crew banter and the sense of accomplishment after a few hours of work, it’s a good way to spend an evening.
“I had viewed trail maintenance as a necessary evil, but was pleasantly surprised when I started joining Wednesday trail crews,” says Andrew Terry, regular trail pixie with Good Dirty Fun. “Turns out, it’s something I really look forward to. I’m meeting great, like-minded people and gaining a greater appreciation for the trails I hike and ride on.”
Volunteer Linda George agrees: “Trail work wasn’t something I planned to get involved in — dirt? tools? — but after a friend talked me into going, I found out how great it is to see a trail develop before our very eyes. I’ve learned what ‘duff’ is, how trails can be built to reduce erosion and, overall, how to create trails that last. I’ve met some new friends and I’m having a lot more fun than I expected!”
Good Dirty Fun crews can also be seen out on local trails on select Saturdays. “Saturday crews are typically centered on groups who’d like to work together for a longer shift,” says John Svahn, TTF board member, TDLT stewardship director and occasional trail crew leader. “We get corporate groups interested in a little team building, making for huge progress in just one day.”
Despite the enthusiasm around Good Dirty Fun, there are still far more miles of trails that need attention. Upcoming work days in July will focus on the Donner Lake Rim Trail north of Interstate 80. Meeting points vary, so check with Truckee Trails Foundation to find out where to meet on a particular work day.
“All trail users owe it to themselves and to their favorite trails to get out and give back. It will broaden your appreciation for trails, teach you new skills, and while you’ll get dirty, you just might have a little bit of fun, too,” said crew leader Kevin Starr.