Since 1994, the fourth Saturday in September marks National Public Lands Day — the signature event held by the National Environmental Education Foundation designed to promote the responsible enjoyment and conservation of public lands.

Each year, the Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado and the San Juan Mountains Association hosts a variety of volunteer events to restore trails, bring awareness to sensitive wilderness and cultural sites, as well as promote stewardship on our public lands.

Since its inception in 1984, Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado seeks to motivate and enable people to become active stewards of Colorado’s natural resources. The group focuses on a variety of projects that help improve access to public lands, promote responsible forest management and support historical preservation.

The organization holds a variety of volunteer opportunities throughout the year for a wide range of outdoor spaces and difficulty levels. This year for National Public Lands Day, the VOC has two events in different parts of the state.

The first event is a trail construction project at Greenie Mountain. Located in the remote San Luis Valley about a half-hour drive from Monte Vista and an hour from the Great Sand Dunes National Park. This two-night volunteer camping experience focuses on creating and extending a sustainable trail system for the area. Volunteers are provided with the tools and training they need to have an impactful camping experience. There are tasks appropriate for all skill levels and physical ability. As with all VOC events, food is provided. (http://bit.ly/2OxOmKO)

For a more urban experience, volunteers can sign up for the Trail Restoration Day at Lory State Park outside of Fort Collins. Over the years visitation to Lory has exploded, causing erosion issues on the trail. Volunteers and park officials work together to help create sustainable drainage features and erosion mitigation. All volunteers are welcome to camp in the park and meals will be provided by the VOC’s volunteer crews. Visit: http://bit.ly/2QKBDGm for more info. 

If you’d like to get involved, check out the VOC website (www.voc.org) to sign up or learn more about how to get involved with the organization. Both events are happening on September 22nd through the 23rd .

For folks looking to volunteer along the Western Slope the San Juan Mountains Association (SJMA) hosts an annual volunteer day. The association aims to help connect people to the land through education and volunteer programs.

Celebrate the 30th anniversary of this award-winning organization at the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. Designated as a monument in 2002, this 176,000-acre stretch of BLM land, located near the Four Corners region, contains the highest density of archeological sites in the state.

Join the SJMA for a half-day of trail restoration and infrastructure projects at the Painted Hands Pueblo. The project aims to beef up the existing trail network in order to stop the use of social trails.

The event runs from 7:30 p.m. until around 1:00 p.m. Breakfast, lunch, prize drawings and an archeological talk about the site add to this fun-filled day of stewardship. If you’d like to join the event or learn more about the San Juan Mountains Association email Kathe at Kathe@SJMA.org.

National Public Lands Day is a day to give back to the wilderness spaces you covet. No matter how you choose to celebrate National Public Lands Day, always remember to be respectful of the wilderness and leave it better than you found it.