Our non-profit society has been incorporated since the early 1990’s. Under our bylaws, we are a “Cooperating Society”, which means we work to support Alberta Parks. Only rarely do we do trail care or education projects on our own, and even these are done with Park’s tacit approval after their review.
While our history has included many responsibilities, our current main focus is trail care. We spend the summer helping Park’s full time trail care staff maintain trails. We do not do any trail care work in the winter, though many of our summer days are spent prepping trails for winter use. Our “job” is to provide an army of labour to leverage trail work Parks undertakes. Two Parks representatives sit on our Board, and we are well connected into Park’s trail care planning process, including the Kananaskis Trails Advisory Group (K-TAG) and the Kananaskis Trails Committee (KTC).
How are trail care days arranged?
In response to Parks requests to us for assistance, we arrange trail care work-days where volunteers can help out. Parks initiates over 90% of our trail care work, with the rest in support of primarily mountain bike trails on Provincial (Sustainable Resource Development managed, non-park) land primarily in the West Bragg Creek area.
It’s important to note that Alberta Parks only work on official trails. Many trails people use are not official. Unofficial trails get no maintenance from Parks or us, though we are in conversations regarding this.
Parks calls, we come. They tell us where they want to work, they pick the dates (sometimes in consultation with us in advance), they tell us the kinds of work that need to be done, and we put out the call for help to you, our members. On a work-day, one of our trained, excellent crew leaders comes along to manage the volunteer group. Our crew leaders handle the paperwork, provide first aid as needed, and make sure all the work is delivered in a safe manner according to what Parks needs. And generally, we look at the weather forecast and cancel 24 hrs in advance if the weather isn’t favourable.
What kind of work does The Friends do?
We generally subdivide the work we do into three levels of difficulty. “Pika” work is easy. It’s pruning trees with loppers, raking pathways, tying up flagging, that sort of thing. “Grizzly” work is tough. Its carrying 10’ long logs, pulling apart log jambs, moving big heavy rocks, and similar heavy duty, back-breaking work. Grizzly work is for the energetic, the young and the strong. And then we have the stuff in the middle called “Elk” work, like hauling wheelbarrows of dirt or digging it up in the first place. Our work-days may have one, two or all three categories of work, depending on what has to be done.
No matter the work, we don’t operate machinery like chainsaws — we’re strictly a hand-tool group.
To the best of our ability, we will describe the kind of work we are going to do in a trail care volunteer call out.
How do I find out about trail care?
Calls for volunteers go out now four ways: via e-mail to our Members, on our Facebook and Twitter feeds and up here on our website on the Current Projects page. All Friends members get our e-mail work call-outs. If you join us, you will get e-mails announcing our events. These are re-posted on Facebook and Twitter, so non-members can see the events and sign up. We use an on-line signup system, but you can also sign up via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling our Canmore office at 403 678 5593.
If I join The Friends, will I get junk mail?
Not at all. You’ll get the trail care call outs. Members can choose to get our newsletter or not. Currently, about 50% of our members get the newsletter, though occasionally, we send the newsletter to everyone if it has really important news or “stuff” in it. The newsletter comes out monthly and reports on what we’ve been doing and what’s coming up. It also has other cool stuff about Kananaskis, so its worthwhile subscribing. Since we control our mailing lists, you’ll get only important stuff from us. You can change your settings about what kinds of material you get by clicking a link at the bottom of every e-mail we send out.
Who pays for all this?
As a non-profit organization, we operate only by donations and grants. We have only one employee, though we usually augment that during the busy summer time with someone to help coordinate the volunteers. We charge no membership dues. So if you like what we do, we encourage you to consider contributing to us. There are links to enable on-line contributions on our website and at the bottom of every e-mail we send out.