Youth from across the nation came together in Keystone, Colorado to take part in the first official September 11 Day of Service and Remembrance. The volunteers from the Natural Leaders Network planted trees at Prospector campground in service to the environment and in honor of fallen heroes.
“We as youth are dedicated to the idea that service inspires leadership and a greater connection to nature,” said Juan Martinez, coordinator of the Natural Leaders Network, a Children & Nature Network initiative. With the founding support of the Sierra Club’s Building Bridges to the Outdoors and The North Face, the network empowers young leaders in the children and nature movement to ensure the youth voice is heard.
The volunteers gathered on a beautiful Colorado day, surrounded by mountains and a bright blue sky. Like so many areas of Colorado, Prospector Campground has lost a number of trees to mountain pine beetle infestation. To remedy this, 45 youth and adult volunteers replanted lodgepole pine tree seedlings at the site. They worked in teams, some searching for the yellow flags that marked young trees in need of a new home, and some digging the holes those little trees would need nearer to the campground. The project required teamwork and coordination, and it inspired much laughter and good spirits among participants.
Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, praised the efforts: “These young people are the most effective leaders in the children and nature movement. They serve their communities every day as they work to guarantee safe places for children to play in the natural world.”
An emerging body of evidence indicates that children are spending dramatically less time outdoors, a trend that many researchers associate with a number of problems experienced by children and youth. Groups such as the BBTO, the Natural Leaders Network, and The North Face are dedicated to changing that trend by inspiring more youth to outdoor exploration, recreation, and service. Projects like the tree planting at Prospector Campground are only a starting point. At the close of the project, youth and adult volunteers alike cheered to discover they helped the campground reach halfway to its goal of planting 300 trees. It was a day that united people from diverse regions, cultural backgrounds, and interests behind a simple goal: to serve community, environment, and county together, and to get outdoors in the process.