In 2022, the Overland Expo Foundation was proud to partner with Tread Lightly! on four service projects coinciding with each of the four Overland Expos throughout the year. Tread Lightly! is a national organization focused on protecting and enhancing recreation access and opportunities by promoting outdoor ethics to heighten individuals’ sense of good stewardship.
Tread Lightly!’s first cleanup project of the year was supposed to take place in May, at the Cinder Hills OHV Area in the Coconino National Forest outside of Flagstaff, Arizona, after Overland Expo West, but due to fires in the area, it was postponed multiple times. Eventually, on November 5th, twenty-six volunteers met up on a beautiful, cold day in the popular 13,000-acre OHV area with its unique black volcanic sand. They replaced 300 feet of fencing damaged by the recent wildfires. The volunteers also combed the area, picked up trash, and collected over 3,500 pounds!
“All of these years, I have heard about Tread Lightly! and knew it was a great organization, but now that I’ve taken part in an event, I am ready to jump on board and help in any way I can! Thanks again for organizing the cleanup!”-Travis B., volunteer
The second project immediately followed the inaugural Overland Expo Pacific Northwest in Bend, Oregon, on July 11th to clean up the China Hat Area of Deschutes National Forest. In recent years, the area has unfortunately become a dumping ground for garbage and abandoned vehicles. Organized by Tread Lightly! and PLS Bend, 105 volunteers removed a staggering 131,780 pounds of trash, which included 25 abandoned cars, RVs and trailers, mattresses, tires, box springs, and all other sorts of garbage. Some volunteers put in over 20 hours of work over the two days to make this happen.
“It truly felt like a groundbreaking event and a moment where people from all different walks truly started to see some things from the other side of the fence and from a perspective outside their own… it’s incredible to be part of something so positive, with so many people participating and working towards common goals in outdoor recreation and stewardship.”-Jeremy E., PLS Bend
For the third project, Tread Lightly!, along with the Colorado 4×4 Girls and the Clear Creek Ranger District, organized a clean-up on September 3rd, shortly after Overland Expo Mountain West, in the Arapahoe Springs trail system on Montane Mountain in Clear Creek County, Colorado. Ten volunteers worked on removing 1,549 pounds of trash from 12 miles of trail. Additionally, they installed educational Carsonite trail signs and six illegal route markers. Despite the group’s relatively small size, this small project greatly impacted the area and showed what can be done when limited resources are focused and properly used.
“Volunteers were able to make contact with recreationists of all types and provide information and education about the area, as well as fire bans and locations for shooting. The Colorado 4×4 Girls will be adopting the wide network of trails in the area in 2023.”-Catherine F., Colorado 4×4 Girls President
Tread Lightly!’s final project of the year took place on December 3rd, cleaning up Tank Hollow Road and campsites in the Jefferson National Forest of Virginia. With help from East Coast Overland Adventures and GFL Environmental, seven volunteers cleaned up just under a ton of trash from the trail, tributary creek, and dispersed campsites that were being used as illegal dump sites. The garbage included a fridge, chest freezer, and two couches. The volunteers also dismantled two illegal fire pits and installed six educational signs and two Carsonite dispersed camping posts to help educate other outdoor users who visit the forest in the future.
“Though I always make it a point to leave trails and campsites better than I found them, doing my first clean-up with Tread Lightly really fulfilled that desire to make a noticeable impact. Despite best efforts, it’s simply not possible for my wife and I to pack out tires, appliances, and some of the more “questionable” items that litter our forests and public lands. With the power of TL! behind a group of like-minded lovers of open lands, however, I was blown away by what we could do. Huge kudos to the USFS coordinator, Plinio Beres, for getting dirty with us while directing us to the most impacted areas. His enthusiasm and appreciation were evident which only fueled our efforts. I can’t wait to do more events and pull more people into Tread Lightly!’s orbit. It’s not enough to simply not litter and clean up after yourself, unfortunately.”-Casey Arnold, Volunteer
The more people we can teach appropriate behavior to, and the work that Tread Lightly! and others do to help protect these lands, the better our collective ability to keep these lands open and accessible for overlanding for future generations.
All in all, the four projects in four states (Washington, Colorado, Arizona, and Virginia), with the help of 148 participating volunteers, completed 822 hours of labor, enhancing 20 miles of trails and removing 138,749 pounds of trash.
As the overlanding community grows, it’s essential that we all do our part to leave the land we travel through better than we found it. By partnering with Tread Lightly! and other organizations on cleanup and improvement projects, the Overland Expo Foundation works to improve the land so everyone can enjoy it.
If you are interested in helping out at the next Tread Lightly! service project, check out their website at tradlightly.org. Or if you have a project you’d like to get funding for, please apply for the Overland Expo Foundation Grant. We’re always excited to help people help improve the land we all enjoy!