Four of Santa Barbara’s trail organizations have collaborated to form the Santa Barbara Outdoor Volunteers program for local residents to collectively organize trail maintenance projects throughout the county.

The Santa Barbara Trails Council, Santa Barbara Mountain Bike Trail Volunteers, Los Padres Forest Association and Santa Barbara County Outdoor Foundation combined forces to provide the county with a volunteer program that will enhance trails and other recreational facilities extending from the UCSB campus to Figueroa Mountain. The Outdoor Volunteers program will use the social networking site Meetup to organize volunteer events and inform the community about the group’s other preservation efforts.

According to SBMTV President Chris Orr, volunteers are vital due to the lack of funds and other resources for the preservation of public parks in Santa Barbara.

“There are monthly trail work events between the four or five organizations — about two to three events per month,” Orr said. “For years, we’ve been trying to put together some kind of umbrella organization, a way to bring volunteers from the different groups and community together.”

In the past, UCSB’s Associated Students has organized groups of student volunteers for many of these local programs, Orr said.

SBTC Executive Director Ray Ford said the site will give community members a medium to share information and discuss plans for improving the region’s trails.

“One of the really cool things about the Meetup concept is that it isn’t just about the projects themselves; it’s about building a social organization, whereby the members can add their own pictures and stories about the projects, discuss issues and suggest their own activities,” Ford said in a press release. “Think about what we can do if we all band together to improve every aspect of our local outdoor environment.”

The Santa Barbara Outdoor Volunteers Program reflects the community’s history in pushing the boundaries of ecological progress, according to Ford.

“Santa Barbarans love to help take care of our local environment,” Ford said in a press release. “We want to make it easy to know when events are happening and for event leaders to coordinate projects.”

Jasonn Beckstrand, a member of the Los Padres Forest Association, said the volunteer program will provide the community with a variety of events that are not all strictly work-based.

“It’s a great way to find out about different activities going on throughout the county — not just trail maintenance,” Beckstrand said. “We all do interpretive events all the way through fun, backcountry, week-long vacation trips.”

Third-year biology major and Excursion Club member Michael Winter said the program will help care for local recreational facilities in need of maintenance.

“It sounds like a great opportunity,” Winter said. “Santa Barbara is such a beautiful place and so many people take that for granted. I’ve been on a few trails in the past that were a bit haggard and cared for improperly, so I think this could be a really awesome way to help with habitat preservation.”

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