Years back a few locals found the Seven Oaks trail in a state of disrepair. It was on Forest Service maps but far from useable.

Hellbent, they took matters into their own hands and approached the Forest Service to see how it could be reopened. The Forest Service said that it could be done and, better yet, they would allow those volunteers to lead the effort under certain conditions and within certain parameters.

Those locals got to talking and, fast forward — the Big Bear Valley Trails Foundation was born to enlist the help of average folks to assist the Forest Service in maintaining trails like Seven Oaks. As a result, local and regional volunteers have maintained the trails here in the Valley for years now. It’s what we do now; it’s who we are.

As the Big Bear Valley Trails Foundation emerged as a formidable trails organization, members discovered the Southern California Mountains Foundation was already doing deep work on trails with its Urban Conservation Corps. The two organizations quickly discovered more could be accomplished together and, leveraging existing relationships with the Forest Service, teamed up. Since then the Big Bear Valley Trails Foundation and Southern California Mountains Foundation and have worked in lock step together on all nonmotorized trail efforts in the Valley, including the Adopt-A-Trail program. Today, this program is the vehicle by which we recruit volunteer support to maintain Big Bear’s trails; it’s the fruition of those stubborn locals’ vision.

The Adopt-A-Trail Program is simple: all U.S. Forest Service system trails are split into sections that give individuals, families, friends, groups, businesses and clubs the opportunity to adopt them by contributing money and/or manpower on an annual basis toward trail work. Over the last 12 months hundreds of volunteers have produced thousands of hours toward trail maintenance, with financial adopters putting tools in their hands and blessing our trails with health. Our trails system has never been better thanks in large part to the participants in this Adopt-A-Trail program.

The clincher, though? It’s always the intangibles. There’s never been a bad day getting your hands dirty working on trails. Smiles show up and bonds form. The feeling of giving back fulfills and abides. Culture develops and communities grow. Funny, the motto of the Forest Service is “Caring for the land and serving the people” and they serve the people well by providing them the opportunity to care for the land in real ways.

Reposted from the Big Bear Grizzly Weekender December 1, 2018