Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Big High Five to the Pikes Peak Community College Outdoor Leadership Group!

It is a treat for us here at the office to get a peek into what is happening 'out in the field', and we LOVE seeing that these stories are literally coming in from all over the country. We want to give a big shout out to a group of students from the Pikes Peak Community College Leave No Trace course, which have been focusing their efforts in the very special William Canon in Manitou Springs, just outside of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Kristen Sherwood, Outdoor Leadership instructor, took the time to fill us in on her groups' effort, and we are excited to share this project with you! Hey students.. you rock!

Here is Kristen's story:
My Leave No Trace Trainer Course at Pikes Peak Community College has been working towards building a partnership with local landowners and USFS to protect a really special place called Williams Canon in Manitou Springs, CO. Classes have mapped terrain, surveyed stream beds, assessed trail impacts, led hikes with local land managers, learned about user conflicts and ecology vs. economy, begun taking inventories of canon resources, all while learning the principles in the field. All of their classes are held in (and underground) in the canon and its caves, and the students really take ownership in the land, which I believe really serves to help them understand Leave No Trace on a deeper level.

Last Saturday, we spent a full day hiking the length of the canon. Each class we try to leave it better than we found it by packing out trash, but this week, the students took it to a whole new level! The canon has many historic sites and structures dating back to the 1870s, and what was probably an old hunting camp has been used by partiers and campers since then. Layers and layers of broken glass, old carpet and a fallen-in roof have been added to the original shelter walls and the place is a mess. The students decided to start cleaning it up -- not just the obvious chunks of junk, but everything that wasn't an artifact. They sifted through the fireplace area, leaving old tin that could be dated and considered part of an archeological site but packing out shotgun shells, Coors cans, shingles, etc.

We were one mile down in a rocky, remote, old-growth forested canon, but the students' motivation took over and they decided they were going to pack it out, no matter what. By using a piece of old sheet metal nailed to a burnt pine pole, para cord, and a tarp, they creatively devised a travois-style sled on which they piled 30-40 lbs of sodden rotting carpet, sooty glass, roofing shingles and the like. Mostly by carrying it over their heads, this giant eyesore was packed out over extremely rough terrain, through creeks, under fallen trees, and down loose scree slopes.

This effort was not without costs -- the sled was like a freight train, and once it got going the students carrying it could not really stop. Heads were bumped, falls were taken, hands bloodied, clothes ruined... everybody got dirty, sooty and tired but at the end of the day they were still all smiles and well-deserved feelings of accomplishment.

The motivation here to get this stuff out of the canon speaks volumes about how much our students enjoy being in the outdoors, protecting it, and the also of camaraderie they develop taking classes together in our Outdoor Leadership program. We have made Leave No Trace a pre-requisite for many of our other classes, and each semester the students seem to find new and impressive ways to protect Williams Canon, and most importantly, identify and express their own outdoor ethics.

Nice work Kristen and her Pikes Peak Community College Outdoor Leadership students! Your efforts DO make a difference!

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