Today is National Public Lands Day.  Of course, to me, every day is Public Lands Day. 

That’s because I use and enjoy our public lands every day.  I may not get out there and hike and bike and fish and play around, but each and every day when I wake up, I look out the window and smile as I gaze at the magnificent Colorado National Monument.

We’re so lucky.  As a friend of mine, Earl VanGinkel, said, “You know, my wife Linda says people save for years to take a vacation here in Colorado.  We get to live here.  Sometimes we forget what a blessing that is.”

Once a year for the past 15 years, we’ve celebrated National Public Lands Day on the last weekend of September by volunteering to tend to our public lands.

National Public Lands Day is the nation’s largest hands-on volunteer effort to improve and enhance the public lands Americans enjoy.

It began in 1994 with three federal agencies and 700 volunteers. In 2007, 110,000 volunteers worked in 1,300 locations and in every state. Now, eight federal agencies and many state and local lands participate in this annual day of caring for shared lands.

National Public Lands Day keeps the promise of the Civilian Conservation Corps, the “tree army” that worked from 1933 to 1942 to preserve and protect America’s natural heritage. This annual event is designed to educate Americans about critical environmental and natural resources issues and the need for shared stewardship of these valued, irreplaceable lands. 

It also builds partnerships between the public sector and the local community based upon mutual interests in the enhancement and restoration of America’s public lands, and improves public lands for outdoor recreation, with volunteers assisting land managers in hands-on work.

Here’s what’s going on around here to celebrate public lands: 

•  First, there will be Free Admission and family hikes planned on Colorado National Monument.  According to Denise Hight, from 9:30 am  to noon at the Devil’s Kitchen Picnic Area, all five to 12-year-olds (accompanied by parents or guardians), are invited to “come use your detective skills to track down canyon country animals during an easy 1.5 mile hike to Devil’s Kitchen led by two Park Rangers.”
Kids will be able to make plaster casts of animal tracks to take home, and everyone, young and old, will enjoy free admission to the park.

•  The Friends of McInnis Canyon will be building a new beginner/intermediate single-track mountain bike trail in the Kokopelli Loops trail area.  According to the Bureau of Land Management’s Matt McGrath, this trail construction will not occur until Saturday, Oct 4. 
“We’ll be working on approximately a half mile of new beginner/intermediate single-track mountain bike trail in the world-famous Kokopelli Loops area,” McGrath said. “This trail will connect Mary’s Loop with other existing routes to provide more beginner and intermediate riding opportunities in the area.”
He said that Friends of McInnis Canyons will provide breakfast snacks for volunteers as they arrive in the morning. “Please bring your own lunch and some water.  We’ll have plenty of water to refill your bottles throughout the day.”
Volunteers should also bring work gloves, sunscreen and bug repellent, as well as wear sturdy boots or shoes (no flip-flops or sandals for trail work). “No trail construction experience is necessary — we’ll teach you everything you need to know,” McGrath said. At the end of the day, the Friends of McInnis Canyons will sponsor a big barbecue that is free and open to everyone, whether you volunteer to work or not.
The Friends will also provide T-shirts and other gifts for all volunteers. In addition to trail construction, volunteers are also needed to help with registration set up/take down, signing volunteers up in the morning, taking water and snacks to volunteers on the trail, helping organize the post-event barbecue and more.
Go to http://www.voutdoors.org, and search for “Mack Ridge Trail Construction,” to sign up.

•  There’s a whole bunch of other stuff going on today from Denver to Montrose, from Durango to Salida.  Go to:  www.publiclandsday.org to find out where you can go to volunteer and what you can do once you get there.  And, even if you don’t volunteer, get onto our public lands and enjoy this beautiful day on lands that belong to all of us.


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