A Tale of Stewardship - Lucas's Story

Editor's Note:

Have you seen the recent improvements at Alum Creek Phase 1?  A lot of the planning and work was done by an OSU Student, Lucas McClish, in conjunction with COMBO Trail Stewards JJ Johnson and Nolan Lambert, with help from REI volunteers and COMBO volunteers as well.

At COMBO, volunteers come to us for many different reasons, and we are grateful for them all!  What follows is Lucas's Story, in his own words.  Lucas rocks!  Does his story inspire you to help? 

More Than Just Trail Work

A particularly nasty section of trail now avoided by the new reroute

A particularly nasty section of trail now avoided by the new reroute

              When I was told to pick a topic for my Natural Resource Management capstone course, my mind hit a blank. Everyone always talks about how important capstone projects are; heck, my dad said his is what got him his first job. No pressure, right? I began ruminating on natural resource management and where it resonates with me.

New bridge at Phase 1

New bridge at Phase 1

              As an avid outdoor recreationist, mountain biking is high up on my list of favorite activities. Phase 2 at Alum Creek has been one of my go to rides whenever I have an hour or two for a quick run on the weekend or in between classes throughout the week. It wasn’t until my second year of college that I discovered Phase 1. From what I remember, I had a thoroughly enjoyable ride. For various reasons, I really didn’t get back to riding Phase 1 again until a year or two later. The second time riding Phase 1 was a different experience. The trail had either degraded over the past two years or I simply had a better understanding of how mountain biking trails should ride; either way, I didn’t quite find the same joy that I had in the past. There were more than a few mud holes, an eroded section or two, and plenty of excessively widened sections. I began to wonder why “someone” didn’t fix up this trail.

              And so, I stumbled upon what would be my capstone project; a renovation of Phase 1. Since COMBO maintains and has built the trails around Central Ohio, they were the obvious starting point. So one cool September morning, a few members from COMBO and I went out to do an initial trail assessment of Phase 1. It was tough. When riding the trail, quick fixes seemed so obvious: fill in this hole, dig a drain here, put a bridge there, but when actually forced to come up with concrete solutions to be implemented, I felt way out of my element. It was definitely a good thing I wasn’t the only one doing the planning.

              After a few hours of walking, evaluating, and debating solutions, we eventually hashed out a rough plan. Over the next month, with plenty of help from volunteers (a big shout out to REI for planning a volunteer day), we cleared roots, put in log overs, and moved plenty of dirt. By the end of October, Phase 1 had gotten a facelift. Hopefully by the time winter hits you will have gotten out to ride the trail reroute and new features.

The REI Trail day

The REI Trail day

              What did I get out of this whole experience? Well, I will be receiving 3 credit hours for my capstone, but I could have easily gained these credits choosing a generic natural resource management topic. No, what I really received was a sense of ownership. I took that “someone” out of the sentence and replaced it with “I”. Granted, I had a small role in the grand scheme of the project, but sometimes it takes just one person speaking up.

              Are we taking responsibility for the public spaces we love? Whether it’s a trail, a lake, a forest, or even an urban park, it’s important that we take ownership of these environments, because if no one does, then who will take care of them? So I challenge you, next time you see a problem, be it eroded trails, degraded habitat, or whatever else catches your attention, rather than saying, “someone should do something”, be that someone. Take ownership and care for these places for the next generation to enjoy.