More than returning the natural area to a place for anyone to recreate and enjoy, trash clean-up and restoration projects help those involved feel purpose and give them a chance to connect with nature. Many of us have experienced the benefits of being outdoors and how it can help shift focus — it’s the reason many of us take overland trips. 

Natural Restorations is a non-profit based in Gilbert, AZ  that focuses on trail clean-ups and restoration projects. Nicole Corey, co-founder and executive director, has seen how the sole act of being at locations in need and picking up trash can have a profound effect on individuals and groups.

Photo by Natural Restorations

When she and her husband founded the organization in 2015, they wanted to focus on getting vets out into nature and give them the opportunity to focus on a goal for the day. To beautify an area and make it a great place for anyone to go and recreate.

Natural Restorations started out as a volunteer-hosted non-profit, focused on holding events to clean-up trash in Arizona. In 2017, they were able to create a dedicated restoration team and contract post-9/11 based veterans. It gives veterans a chance to see immediate physical impact on a site and create community around it as well as create an opportunity for veterans to reintegrate into civilian society.

So far, Natural Restorations has provided over 10,300 hours to military veterans on the team and they have completed their 87th week of projects with the team. In that time, they have removed 622 tons (1.2 million pounds) of trash, 40199 square feet of graffiti, 1359 tires removed and recycled, planted over 23,000 trees, plants, and cacti. 

Photo by Natural Restorations

To show our support for all of the incredible work Natural Restorations does, we are excited to announce they are Overland Expo Foundation’s first grantee! 

In 2020, the Bush Fire in the Tonto National Forest burned almost 200,000 acres including Four Peaks and Lower Sycamore recreation area, which was devastating for the outdoor community. The Overland Expo Foundation Grant is funding two weeks of replanting at Lower Sycamore starting mid-February with a volunteer event on February 19th, 2022 at Four Peaks. Nicole explained that the replanting of a burn scar not only improves the appearance of the area but it also helps with the usability and safety of the area, especially when it comes to flooding.  Bringing plant communities back to a watershed is really important for soil stabilization, reducing effects of erosion. This has long term effects on the ecosystem, not just the land, but the wildlife and outdoor community. 

How you can get involved with this project: Volunteer on February 19th. RSVP at

You can also talk with them in person at Overland Expo West, May 20-22, 2022 in Flagstaff, AZ.

Natural Restoration’s advice for overlanders: Take part in Trash Preparedness. Before you go, think about what you are going to do with your trash. 

  1. Is there service where you are going? Don’t just leave it by the fire ring where wildlife can get to it. 
  2. Where’s the nearest trash disposal that isn’t a gas station – they often have limited space or are already overflowing. 
  3. Only take what you need, and make sure to pack up everything that you take. 
  4. Add some items to the kit that should always be in your vehicle: set of gloves, some trash bags, and a trash grabber.