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SENDING OUT THE TROOPS: volunteers on the Ozark Trail

The Conservation Federation of Missouri, along with the US Forest Service and American Youth Hostels are working to improve trails.

By Niki L. Aberle

From a distance, you would think you were watching a documentary on the "chain-gangs" of our correctional institutions. WHACK.CLUMP.WHACK! Tools swing, rock chips fly, muscles clench and strain, and the earth finally takes the shape of a linear pathway or a trail- more specifically, the Ozark Trail in eastern Missouri. The difference is that these laborers are doing this because they WANT to and the smiles on their faces prove their willingness and dedication.

We called for action and these volunteers whole-heartedly provided it. The Conservation Federation of Missouri, along with the US Forest Service and American Youth Hostels, held two workdays on the Trace Creek Section of the Ozark Trail. Over fifty volunteers gave up their valued weekend to be a part of history by assisting with trail building. This shows definite success for the Ozark Trail Team Program.

The program began by training interested volunteers to do basic trail maintenance work. We have had four official workshops over the past two years, which have allowed for volunteers to put in over 2,500 hours on the Ozark Trail. Currently, light maintenance is not enough of a challenge for the "die hard" volunteers. Some prefer to BUILD trail.

Bruce Linders, American Youth Hostels, stated, "Even though my group has been Ozark Trail lovers and maintenance volunteers for years, I never really got the full appreciation of the trail until I actually help build it. It's a great feeling of accomplishment, plus I'm preserving a landmark for future generations."

The "chain gang" of volunteers completed nine miles of trail this Spring and they are "chomping at the bit" waiting for more challenges. I cannot thank the volunteers enough. This is what makes my job wonderful!

For more information on the Ozark Trail Program, please contact me, Niki Aberle, at 1-800-575-2322 or send me an email to trailteam@socket.net. Until next time, HAPPY TRAILS!

More information on the web at: www.confedmo.com

Article published in the June/July 2000 issue of Missouri Wildlife, a bi-monthly publication issued by the Conservation Federation of Missouri.

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