March 25, 2021

New city program fosters stewardship of local natural spaces

Volunteers walk toward the Bend in the River section along the Jordan River Parkway Trail in Glendale. Cyclist takes to the dirt jumps at Poplar Grove’s 9Line Bike Park, part of the city’s Trails and Natural Lands division, which relies on volunteers to help change up and maintain.
Volunteers walk toward the Bend in the River section along the Jordan River Parkway Trail in Glendale.|Cyclist takes to the dirt jumps at Poplar Grove’s 9Line Bike Park, part of the city’s Trails and Natural Lands division, which relies on volunteers to help change up and maintain.|||| Volunteers walk toward the Bend in the River section along the Jordan River Parkway Trail in Glendale.|Cyclist takes to the dirt jumps at Poplar Grove’s 9Line Bike Park, part of the city’s Trails and Natural Lands division, which relies on volunteers to help change up and maintain.|||| |||||
By Cody Egan

Salt Lake City has launched a new interactive calendar to help residents engage with events hosted through the Trails and Natural Lands Divion’s (TNLD) Volunteer Stewardship Program. This program aims to inspire investment and care in shared natural spaces and foster an inclusive community by providing volunteer opportunities at local nature areas.

Many of the new calendar’s upcoming events take place at locations on Salt Lake City’s west side, including the Jordan River Trail and the 9-Line Bike Park. Activities include clean-up days, trail workdays, habitat restoration and dig days for the bike park. Since the structured volunteer events will be held outside, most events are scheduled between April and October.

Residents of all backgrounds are encouraged to participate, and mixing demographics is a hopeful byproduct of the calendar events. Joseph Peterson, Communications Specialist for the TNLD, noted that the activities are also opportunities to connect with someone through manual labor, which doesn’t typically require people speaking the same language. He suggests it’s an excellent opportunity for diverse neighborhoods to work together towards a common goal, overcoming the language barrier that may otherwise prevent connections between neighbors of different backgrounds.

Katie Riser, Volunteer, Outreach and Education Coordinator for the TNLD, notes that to promote volunteer safety to participants in these events, the city has taken several necessary precautions to minimize the possible spread of COVID-19. Group events will be limited in size, and all meetings will be conducted outside. Additionally, residents can participate in various events that range from very minimal human interaction to events with a small group of volunteers.

More engaged residents can participate in proactive stewardship activities, serving “as the eyes, ears, and ambassadors” for sites that they visit regularly. Riser notes that if you are a regular walker, biker or kayaker on the Jordan River or Jordan River Trail, then the program wants your feedback as a Volunteer Steward.

Volunteer Steward activities include periodically taking photographs to document changes, completing written reports, performing minor maintenance, talking to neighbors and visitors and alerting TNLD staff of unwanted uses or issues that need attention.

In addition to the Volunteer Stewardship Program and event calendar, the TNLD often reaches out to local community councils for input, volunteer opportunities and other acts of community engagement. There are currently six west-side community councils providing venues for west-side residents to protect natural lands in their communities, and each council is open to participation in any way its community members are comfortable doing so.

The new volunteer calendar can be found at https://www.slc.gov/stewardship. Those interested in participating can also view and sign up for these events by downloading the Golden Volunteer Opportunities App.