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The Pandemic, the Nature Trail, and the Volunteers that Kept it Open

You have heard their names floating around BLC throughout the years, and this month we want to take the time for our members to really get to know these special volunteers. Our Trail Crew are dedicated volunteers who meet weekly, on Wednesdays, to keep the Spring Creek Nature Trail maintained and beautiful for everyone in our community. Even during the global Covid-19 pandemic, Trail Crew volunteers continued to get out on the trail every single week while adorned with a face mask and abiding by safety protocols. The global pandemic proved that safe, inclusive, and accessible outdoor recreation was more important than ever. "If there ever was a silver lining for the pandemic, it was that folks were able to slow down and really get back to their roots and appreciate outdoor spaces" says Land Stewardship Director Suzanne Simpson, aka the Trail Crew Mother.

We saw an uptick of 700% in trail usage in the 2nd quarter over the 1st in 2020 as Covid restrictions began. Parents-turned-homeschool teachers, families seeking fresh air, and neighbors who just needed to step outside found joy on the trail. To say that the trail needed some TLC during this year of social distancing would be quite an understatement! There was only one group who could take on the challenge of keeping the trail open and safe for all, and so, the trail crew was on the job!

These volunteers never rests until the job is done, like when they recently re-built the Canyon Bridge. Crew volunteers worked tirelessly for an entire week – sometimes putting in 12-hour days! But it’s not all work and no play. They have also forged life-long friendships. There is always "book club" after a hard day’s work where they commiserate about lifting 500 pounds of rebar and lumber and chopping down the unrelenting invasive tallow, but also share laughs about the fun things that happened that day. It also isn’t unheard of to see them rewarding themselves with a cold craft beer, usually from a local brewery, after the work is done. During the global pandemic, there was a short period of time when the crew did not meet due to the Stay Home Work Safe order issued by Harris County. Tail Crew member Dean Kahney remembers, “After we restarted the Trail Crew, I discovered that what I really missed and valued the most was the companionship and social interaction with my fellow trail workers. We all enjoy the weekly work but I think we all hurry to finish each week just so we can gather and share stories and talk with each other.”

Trail Crew members working on the Canyon Bridge rebuild. To thank the Trail Crew for all they do, we recognized them at our most recent Brews & Bayous event. John Stacy, head Trail Crew member shared stories and fondly reminisced, "We are more than just a group of people who volunteer together; we truly are great friends. Many didn't hesitate when I asked them to help me move a few summers ago. There they were carrying box after box of my stuff down my flight of stairs. If anyone needs a ride to a doctor’s appointment, or needs a favor, we can always count on each other."

Members of the Trail Crew were honored at Bayou Land Conservancy's Brews and Bayous event at 11 Below Brewing on Thursday, June 17, 2021. L to R: (front row) Brian Beebe, Mish Patel, and Diana Philpot, (back row) Diana Markuson, Aram Derewetzky, Peter Jensen, Tom Philpot, Dean Kahney, Jay Rubens, and John Stacy

So, let's hear it for the Trail Crew. The next time you see this group out on the trail give them a big thank you! And, if you see them at one of their local watering holes, I am sure they wouldn't mind if you bought them a craft beer!

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