Your ideal Saturday morning probably doesn’t include digging trenches, moving rocks and slogging through mud. But for some devoted volunteers who gather to spruce up the trails at Bull Run Mountains Conservancy, that kind of hard work is time well spent.
“It’s good to give back,” said Wes Russell of Stafford, a computing systems engineer who participated at one of the recent volunteer sessions. “If you’ve hiked one trail, you owe it.”
There are more than eight miles of trails in the conservancy. Travel them, and you’ll wander through a fern hollow and past a rock outcropping with sweeping views of neighboring mountains. Black bears, foxes and bobcats have all been spotted on these mountains.
Volunteers work on the trails on the first Saturday of every month, and their projects vary. On a recent morning, the crew of about a dozen worked to prevent erosion on one trail. They laid rocks across the path to redirect excess rainwater. It was fitting that the day was rainy: The workers could see the need for their efforts.
At the beginning of each volunteer session, Executive Director Michael Kieffer gives a brief tutorial on the day’s project and how it fits into the conservancy’s ultimate mission of protecting the area through “education, research and stewardship.”
“We can’t preserve the preserve without a serious core of volunteers,” Kieffer said.
Besides the monthly volunteers, there are weekend warriors who walk the trails and help visitors as well as people who clean the trails after storms. Others help with bimonthly events.
The area is an ecological gem and an important spot for research. In the 1930s and ’40s, H.A. Allard, a Smithsonian botanist, spent eight years inventorying every plant on the mountain — 15,000 specimens in all. Having a baseline count has helped scientists learn how the area is changing.
“The goal is to try to maintain the most diversity that you possibly can,” Kieffer said.
Volunteers’ reasons for helping out are equally diverse. Hillary Mazur, a graduate student from Nokesville, makes regular trips to the top of the ridge to do her homework before a backdrop that rivals any screensaver. She made her first work trip a couple of months ago, hoping to meet other people who love the area as much as she does.
“I am going to do my part,” Mazur said, adding that it seems important to “keep a place like this nice.”
Kieffer encourages volunteers to call or e-mail to sign up ahead of time so organizers can figure out how many tools and supplies they will need. The group starts work at 9 a.m. and continues until noon or 1 p.m. — or until the work is finished. Bringing your own work gloves is encouraged, and a willingness to get dirty is a necessity. This is work that will make you sweat.
“You won’t regret it,” Russell said. “Well, maybe a little on Sunday.”
Where is it? Bull Run Mountains Conservancy, 17405 Beverly Mill Dr., Broad Run, Va. www.brmconservancy.org.
When is it? Every first Saturday of the month at 9 a.m. Rain or shine.
How do I get involved? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 703-753-2631.