How to Take Care of Public Lands: Four Questions to Ask Yourself

Posted by Ryne Willis on April 1, 2019

How to Take Care of Public Lands: Four Questions to Ask Yourself

Since 2003, Avid4 Adventure has utilized public lands. At the start, we used them minimally. We would load up our gray Ford Econoline 350, affectionately known to us as “The Gray Goose.” Then, one group of thirteen kids would be taken out to a local recreation area in Boulder and two instructors would lead them on an adventure. That is if we were lucky enough to get thirteen kids to participate.

Ah, how times have changed. We now run summer camps all across Colorado, California, and most recently, Portland, Oregon. Instead of the one group of kids in “The Goose” we now take over 20,000 kids per year on weekly adventures and as a result we now use public land A LOT more than we used to. Ultimately, with any level of public land use comes responsibility.

From the beginning in 2003, Avid4 Adventure partnered with conservation organizations because we knew that taking care of public land would be paramount to the success of our mission to empower kids to get outside. Now, we work with both national and local land use agencies and conservation groups to keep the wild places wild. Below you’ll find a quick guide for how Avid4 Adventure helps take care of public land and how you can too by asking yourself these four easy questions.

Do I practice each of the Leave No Trace Principles?

Leave No Trace is not just a nationally recognized outdoor conservation group. It is also a way to reduce one’s impact on natural environments in the outdoors. The Leave No Trace Code of Ethics is a set of seven principles to help inform people in the outdoors how to be respectful users of natural places and has been adopted by many prominent outdoor groups and outdoor education programs. Recently, Avid4 Adventure was recognized as the first Leave No Trace accredited youth program in the United States.

Avid4 Adventure and Leave No Trace formed a strong partnership when our organization was just getting started. As a result, the seven principles are a significant part of what we teach to campers in Avid4 Adventure programs and is woven into much of our curriculum. Avid4 Adventure has partnered with Leave No Trace in the past to pilot several of their kid-friendly programs like the Nature Keeper Program and the Leave No Trace for Every Kid program.

Leave No Trace is a great place to start as a family or individual in leaving nature in better shape than you found it. Do you know and follow the seven Principles? They are:

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Learn more about the Leave No Trace organization and the seven principles to help take care of public lands.

Who else can I partner with to help take care of public lands?

Take a moment to think about who else you may know that wants to protect wild places. For example, do you have friends, family or coworkers that may want to help? Is there an opportunity to organize a monthly volunteer event at your place of work, home or your child’s school? At Avid4 Adventure, we often partner with other organizations, our seasonal staff, and campers and their families to work together on taking care of public lands.

One example that stands out is when our organization participated in a volunteer event in Lyons, Colorado several years ago in partnership with American Whitewater to clean up the Saint Vrain river—a location that Avid4 Adventure camps visit for whitewater kayaking and stand up paddleboarding. This event was successful because our headquarters staff, seasonal camp instructors, Avid4 Adventure campers and their families all participated.

Take a moment to think of ways you can involve others in your life to get involved and volunteer to help take care of public lands.

What outdoor sports am I (or my kiddos) passionate about and what non-profit organization can I (or we) volunteer with?

One of the best ways to get involved is to volunteer for a cause you are excited about. Avid4 Adventure often partners with organizations who specialize in advocacy specific to different outdoor sports. It is also common to see campers leave at the end of a week of Avid4 Adventure camp with A LOT of excitement for one of the sports they got to try that week. What sport are you or your child excited about right now? Check out these organizations and ask your child which one they would be excited to learn more about.

  • The Access Fund: This notable conservation group has gone head to head with some tough adversaries to protect public land and keep climbing areas clean and safe. In addition, this organization is all about education. Their website has a wealth of knowledge and could be a great conversation starter when it comes to talking with your child about how they can help take care of outdoor climbing areas.
  • American Whitewater: This organization is committed to keeping moving water clean, safe, and accessible to boaters of all ages. They have a strong presence at the Nation’s capital to advocate for legislation supporting the cleanliness, conservation, and accessibility of important whitewater areas. The organization regularly keeps its members up to speed on the projects they are supporting. They also provide opportunities for members to connect with the general public to encourage building community around whitewater conservation.
  • International Mountain Bike Alliance: The IMBA does significant work to improve access to biking across the world. They have many local chapters state and city-wide as well. In Boulder, Avid4 Adventure works with the Boulder Mountainbike Alliance (BMA) to perform trail work and donate through corporate and personal memberships. They do a lot of kid-friendly community biking events that we at Avid4 Adventure love and you will too.

What if I don’t have the time to volunteer?

The good news is there are multiple ways to get involved. If you or your family lacks time to volunteer, there is always the option to make a monetary donation. As our CEO, Paul Dreyer at Avid4 Adventure likes to say “It is scientifically proven that giving makes you happy.” The truth is, these essential organizations and countless others would not exist without donations and advocates for their important causes.

To maximize your donation, try making to make it meaningful in a way that your kid(s), family or friends can get excited about donating or getting involved too. Try letting the people in your life know about the donation you are planning to make and why you are making it. Consider sharing that you have made a donation on your social media accounts or requesting donations for a chosen organization for your birthday on Facebook.

When it comes to your kid(s), depending on ages and interests, they can get involved in different ways too. Do they get an allowance? Do they get money for birthdays or holidays? Could they give a small donation to an organization? It can take some work but it can be a lot of fun and may get your kids excited about giving money to a worthwhile cause. Try having them go on an organization’s website with you to be a part of the giving process. It is a great start and may make them happy because as Paul says “giving makes you happy”.

Finally, public lands are important to protect and take care of so that they can be enjoyed by all for years to come. You can help take care of public lands by practicing the seven Leave No Trace principles, partnering with others to get involved, choosing an organization to volunteer with that advocates for a cause tied to a sport you or your family love and make a donation.

To help your kids find an outdoor sport they are excited about where they will learn more about Leave No Trace, and being a responsible outdoor steward consider registering them for an Avid4 Adventure summer day camp in Colorado, California or Oregon.

Find Your Adventure



Topics: Outdoor Advocacy, Public Lands