In case you haven’t visited a major department store lately, the holiday season is just around the corner. Maybe you haven’t been as good as you planned to be after last Christmas. Maybe you put the almost-empty milk container back in the fridge even after your wife asked you not to. Maybe you’re a little nervous about making the “nice list” on Christmas morning.
There’s still hope. You know all those trails you rode? The greenways you ran? The rivers and lakes you paddled around? They need your help.
Here are 6 options to give back to the places you’ve enjoyed this year and maybe stock up enough good karma to eek your way out of a lump of coal in your stocking.
Carolina Thread Trail
The Carolina Thread Trail spans 15 counties in North and South Carolina. So far 220 miles of new trail connect over 2 million people. The Thread Trail has also added several new blue ways to its system including kayak put-ins. The work plan is just beginning.
Continuing the momentum needs people power. Volunteering with the CTT means cleaning up debris on blue ways, building a new mile of trail, or cutting back invasive plants along existing ones. The group organizes almost monthly public workdays and private group events.
If you want to go beyond a single workday, consider becoming a Trail Master. The program teaches sustainable trail creation and maintenance techniques. A Trail Master will complete a 4 day training session and acts as crew leader on organized work days.
Volunteer workdays are well organized affairs with the CTT providing food, tools, and instruction to each participant.
When you ride or run any of the 100 plus miles of single-track mountain bike trails throughout Charlotte, remember to thank theTarheel Trailblazers. The 400 person strong group of volunteers build and maintain every inch of that trail system.
Volunteering with the TTBs typically means clearing and cleaning existing trails. Workdays are a little less formal – pretty much just show up at the right time and place and get to work. Each workday is listed on the website’sforum where the group leader will tell you what you need to bring. Besides giving back to the trails you love to ride it’s also a great chance for a newbie to connect with seasoned Charlotte riders.
Water flowing in the Catawba River originates in the mountains of western North Carolina before making it’s way through Charlotte. Continuing south east, the river changes names to the Wateree, joins the Congaree, and eventually empties into the Atlantic via Charleston.
Near Charlotte the river feeds three lakes – Mountain Island, Norman, and Wylie. The river plays a key role in power production and provides drinking water for over 800,000 people in the area and is home to hundreds of bird and animal species.
The Catawba and its associated lakes are also a source of endless entertainment. Kayaks, jet skis, SUPs, pontoons, and everything in between launch from the shores in and around Mecklenburg County.
All that use puts a lot of stress on those waterways. The Catawba Riverkeepers are an independent, non-profit group that works to protect this critical resource. They offer several volunteer opportunities such as water testing, building rain gardens, and adopting an island or cove.
Perhaps the most dramatic way to make a difference is to join in one of their frequent work days. A recent event on Lake Wylie brought together over 1000 volunteers who removed 29,000 pounds of trash from the lake.
The Catawba Riverkeeper website shows a comprehensive list of ways you can help make our waterways healthier.
Anne Springs Close Trailkeepers
Anne Springs Close Greenway is a privately owned park about 20 minutes south of Charlotte. ASCG offers fitness programs, horseback riding, and several youth camps.
It’s the 40 miles of trail that brings many of its visitors though. Some are designated for mountain biking, some are equestrian, all are open to hikers and runners. The park is full of history and natural beauty and needs the support of those that use it.
ASCG relies on volunteer support for everything from trail maintenance to photography and the website offers a list of these opportunities.
Surf Rider Foundation
The Surf Rider Foundation is an advocate for water quality and clean beaches. As one of a few inland branches of the organization, the Charlotte chapter helps to protect our lakes and rivers through education, political action, and volunteer clean up days.
The SRF is new in Charlotte so if you like the idea of getting in on the ground floor and helping an organization grow, this is a great option.