August 7, 2019 Column
I've mentioned before that the continuing success of our Trail Guard Saturday mornings at the Nature Park is largely due to the way we structure our program. Our "opening circle" is a great way to instantly engage all the kids, get everyone on the same inclusive page, and keep a finger on the group's pulse.
Part of that opening is for everyone present to answer the “Question of the Day,” and thirteen-year-old Adrianna Schlangen came up with a great question last Saturday: "What does Trail Guards mean to you?"
The kids gave incredible answers that spoke directly to the true intentions of our organization. Their answers honor the loyalty we're shown by our supporters, the hard work of our board and staff, and the trust of our Trail Guard families.
It was a pretty easy question for me, because the things we do at Trail Guards are things I personally like to do. Canoe camping, bicycling, rafting, working on the park, and so much more come directly from my own passions. But that wasn't my answer.
My answer was that it's an opportunity to connect with great kids. I'm incredibly lucky to have spent such quality time with so many kids of all ages and from so many different backgrounds for all these years, and to see them keep coming back for more.
But for the kids it was mostly about the outdoors, the park, and friendships. "To be outdoors in nature with our friends." "I like hauling woodchips." "We get to have fun at the park and river with our friends and family." "We work and have fun!" "We get to pick up trash and keep the park clean."
"We always get to share a healthy breakfast and tasty lunch every Saturday." "We get to meet friends that we otherwise wouldn't get a chance to meet." "It's something we look forward to all week." "We come to Trail Guards every Saturday not knowing what we are going to do because it's always something different." "I get to spend time with my older sister."
Kayla Pinske, now a young member of our staff, had a different comment. She said she views Trail Guards as a responsibility we have to our community, because those who live here and visit the park depend on us to keep it nice.
We're halfway through our 28th year, and just a few days away from our 25th Boundary Waters trip. Thanks to everyone involved for keeping the wheels turning as we head into our next adventure!