On 20/November/2005, about 30 members of a Buddhist Youth Group volunteers joined efforts with the San Gabriel Mountains Trail Builders to clear and rework the nature trail surrounding the San Gabriel Environmental Education Center located along Highway 39 leaving up through the San Gabriel Mountains toward Crystal Lake. I joined the effort to haul trees that had fallen across the trail after the were cut up with a chain saw.
The Environmental Education Center is a vital and much-used facility that teaches children from the Los Angeles County and surrounding Counties about the plants and animals that make their homes in these mountains -- which are just 20 miles from major cities.
Children who spend most of their early years rarely setting foot outside of the cities are taken for a hike through the nature trail which encompases a number of micro environments. Poison oak and deer are often encountered in the hillside surrounding the nature trails andf it's an excellent opportunity to show city kids that there's wilderness outside of contrete, steel, and automobils.
The hiking trails through the canyons are subject to mud slides, heavy rains, and trees that fall due to forest fires, disease, and beetle infestations. These clearing efforts consist of using tools to clear overgrown brush, level the trail, cut up fallen trees, and haul the scrub and logs off the tails.
Safety if an issue on why such work is done, but the effort allows families with smaller children to have relatively easy access to enjoy the forest. Litter removal is a resulting problem, of course, yet most people don't litter and many collect trash they find along the trails.
The group of volunteers took a quick walk around the nature trails to see what the job would take, then were given a safety orientation followed by a quick review of the tools and other equipment that would be used for the effort. Then the volunteers were broken into teams.
Most of the effort uses a "McCloud" tool, a rake on one end and hoe on the other. That's used to level the side of the trail so that the path is mostly flat.
Another effort was the removal of plants that are not native to the area. There were fig trees that are growing along the stream bed which needed toi be removed with hand saws and long-handled cutters. The remains then needed to be hauled back to the Education Center and stacked for chipping.
The fallen-tree cutting and hauling team was the one I was on. Mike maintains certification for chain saw use so he handled the sectioning of fallen trees while the rest of us collected the segments and carried them back to the Center. A wheel barrel was used for some of that though most of the logs were carried by hand.
General repair of the rocks lining the trail was performed along with the removal of dry leaves.
The Environmental Education Center maintains a stock of young pine trees resting in pots awaiting eventual planting in the canyons as part of the watershed reclamation projects that take plane annually; an effort to rebuild the area's watershed after a series of fires and after disease and parasite infestation has taken its toll.
This is "forest defense" starting at the ground level. Community citizens work with Freddies on projects like this to try to instill a level of respect for the environment and to impart the need to take care of the environment when camping, hiking, or bicycleing. Additionally the maintenance of designated hiking paths and fire breaks helps to contain people as they exercise and enjoy the wilderness so that they're not causing errosion problems all over the moutains and canyons.
Speaking only for myself. I am not a member of the San Gabriel Mountains Traiul Builders or the Buddhist Youth Group.