The great outdoors is the sports stadium of the people.
It’s the arena that invites all of us, regardless of age or gender, to take our best shot.
A trail or mountain is waiting to test your endurance regardless of whether you made the cut for the varsity.
A trout rising to a hatch in a narrow seam in the Missouri River will test your fly casting accuracy as intensely as the next Seahawks opponent will test Russell Wilson’s passing precision.
Shooting a rapid on the Lochsa River is as thrilling as sinking a game-winning 3-pointer.
Taking a gaggle of kids huckleberry picking is a slam dunk.
Hockey’s goon-squad enforcers pale to the Sports Center highlights potential of yellow jackets, moose and grizzly bears.
But don’t look for a ref to call time out if things go foul. When your arms are spent and thighs are burning as hail, thunder and lightning bears down on the open rock face of that 5.10 climb, no subs will be coming off the bench.
That said, the biggest difference between the great outdoors and sports stadiums is that there aren’t enough paid attendants to take care of all the maintenance.
In the wildest backcountry areas, responsible outdoors visitors pack out everything they pack in. But that’s not enough.
Cutbacks in local, state and federal recreation budgets have dramatically reduced maintenance even in the front country recreation areas.
Alarming trends on the Colville National Forest include:
62 percent decrease in employees since the early 1990s,
46 percent decrease in road maintenance contracting budget in the past two years.
64 percent reduction in the already meager recreation budget expected in the next year.
Not for generations has there been a greater need for volunteers to help maintain outdoor recreation opportunities and wildlife habitat.
Organized groups make it easy to pay your dues for field time in the outdoors. Here’s a sampling:
Spokane Nordic organizes trail-clearing sessions at Mount Spokane State Park’s cross-country skiing area, which will expand to 60 kilometers of routes this season. Additional trail work days are set for Oct. 12 and 27. Info: spokanenordic.org.
Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, small but muscle-willing group with an area chapter, answered a Forest Service wildlife biologist’s request last week to plant shrubs and improve camping and habitat sites on the West Branch of LeClerc Creek. Info: backcountryhunters.org.
Spokane River Forum is organizing volunteers to plant shrubs, check erosion and restore the shoreline at a river access site at the Stateline on Oct. 18-19. Sign up: spokaneriver.net/stateline .
Anglers with the Inland Empire Fly Fishing Clubs and Spokane Fly Fishers recently chipped in to fund and install an aerator to ward off fish kills at West Medical Lake. Join up: spokaneflyfishers.com.
Friends of the Bluff organized mountain bike trail experts Wednesday night to work on sections of the volunteer-built trail system below High Drive. The Friends group – a small fraction of the people who enjoy the 25 miles of trails – have been doing much more, including pruning to reduce the chance of a major fire. Noxious weed control is being scheduled for October. Info: friendsofthebluff.org.
Washington Trails Association volunteers are building and maintaining trails in several popular local destinations, including Riverside State Park in October. First they’ll tend to a 2,000-hour commitment of improving trails at Liberty Lake on Saturday. Sign up: wta.org.
Indeed, Saturday, being National Public Lands Day, offers numerous opportunities to get involved. Among them:
The 11th annual Spokane River Clean-Up, 9 a.m.-noon, organized by Friends of the Falls. The 600 volunteers who joined the effort last year picked up more than 4 tons of trash. Register: friendsofthefalls.org.
The Inland Northwest Wildlife Council, which spearheads fish and wildlife habitat-related projects year-round, will participate in the Hunting and Fishing Fair Saturday, 1 p.m.- 5 p.m., at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife regional office grounds, 2315 N. Discovery Pl. in Spokane Valley. The council regularly organizes fish and wildlife habitat projects and reaches out to youths to help plant the outdoor-stewardship ethic into fertile ground. Info: wildlifecouncil.com.
If these groups and efforts don’t jingle your bell for giving back to the outdoors, chart your own course. Just do it. How about donating at least six hours a year to your favorite outdoor venue?
Think of it this way: the training and nerve control required to deliver a perfect kill shot to an elusive bull elk is comparable with the precision needed for kicking a clincher field goal.
But the sportsman has the additional responsibility to line the field, put up the goal posts and assure that the opposing team is fed, sheltered and prepared for the next game.