The Olympic value of friendship is an important one here in Olympic City USA, and throughout the month of January we are highlighting the people, organizations and stories that embody this value. In the world’s largest sports competition, it looks like the friendship countries offer to each other at the Opening Ceremonies or on the field of play, but here in Colorado Springs it looks like neighbors welcoming new residents to the neighborhood, strangers comforting those with great personal loss, or organizations promoting and protecting the natural resources we are privileged to have here. One of these organizations is Friends of the Peak. We chatted with Brian VanValkenburg, Project Coordinator for the organization talked with us about the group, his involvement and what it's like living in Olympic City USA.
Question: What is Friends of the Peak?
Answer: Friends of the Peak is an all-volunteer non-profit that is focused on the preservation and restoration of the natural environment of the Pikes Peak massif. We promote and enhance recreational opportunities and visitor experiences that are in harmony with the natural environment of Pikes Peak, we promote and participate in research and solutions for the sound stewardship of Pikes Peak, and the awareness of and education about Pikes Peak.
Put another way: We try to minimize human impact while maximizing human enjoyment.
Our expertise is in trail maintenance, trail design and construction, all performed by volunteer advocates.
Question: Why is it important to protect these natural resources in our community?
Answer: Pikes Peak and the many miles of trail on it are heavily used and greatly loved. This can lead to overuse and potentially heavy environmental damage from the many user groups and activities. Trail maintenance helps to lessen the environmental impact by creating sustainable trails to limit water and erosion damage.
Question: What are some of your primary initiatives or programs you focus on?
Answer: We run trail maintenance workdays throughout the summer on many of the most loved local trails: Seven Bridges Trail, St. Mary’s Falls Trail, Pancake Rocks Trail, Horsethief Park Trail, The Crags Trail and Barr Trail and Devil’s Playground Trail to the summit of the Peak.
The Ring the Peak trail system is our gem – we’ve been promoting and leading the construction, completion and maintenance activities of the many trails that are part of the ring since our inception in 1995.
We also strongly believe in fostering relationships among the regional friend’s groups: we are members of the ‘Superfriends’ Friends Group Advisory team, we support the Trails and Open Space Coalition (TOSC), and along with the Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI), TOSC and Colorado Springs Parks and Rec we run a regional trail maintenance crew leader training every spring to train new volunteer crew leaders to help keep the regional volunteer engine running at full speed for all of the friends groups.
Question: What do you think are primary ingredients in being a good friend to our environment, other organizations, or to other people?
Answer: Advocacy, knowledge, passion and communication. Participate in local activities, share your knowledge and experience and encourage others to participate and be involved.
Question: How would you encourage others to embody friendship?
Answer: Seek out the friends group for your favorite trail or park and help them out – we are all volunteer based, and each friends group has an all-volunteer board. Get out and volunteer – volunteer workdays are fun and bursting with comradery and leave you with an amazing sense of satisfaction by giving back to the environment and other trail users.