Tis the thankful season, and here in Sheridan we have plenty to be thankful for. Wide-open spaces, fields teeming with wildlife, clean water, enough people that we can enjoy a full complement of city amenities but not so many people that you can’t find a space all to yourself, and of course those gorgeous mountain views.

All of it — and so much more — comprise our beautiful Bighorns backyard. It’s an awfully special place to call home. And it’s a home made more beautiful thanks to some awfully special folks — volunteers.

At Sheridan Community Land Trust, those volunteers are particularly special. Since July 1, 2020, more than 370 kind, caring people helpfully shared more than 1,800 hours of their time to keep trails in tip top condition; teach new skills or share new stories as Discovery Session leaders and Explore History program presenters; and assist at events and chart the course of the good ship SCLT by serving on our board and committees.

We’re thankful for their work, because without their work, we couldn’t do ours. And we hope that while giving back to their community, people can gain much more. For students from John C. Schiffer Collaborative School and Big Horn Middle School, their time volunteering on the trails this spring helped show them a new way to enjoy and explore the outdoors close to home.

“We know that if you work together and play together you build stronger relationships and get better results,” reflected David Peterson, a social studies instructor at the John C. Schiffer Collaborative School.

It’s a reflection that extended beyond the work of the Schiffer students who spent a beautiful May day working on the new Green Room Trail at Malcolm Wallop Park, performing basic maintenance at Hidden Hoot Trail and learning about local history while taking the Big Goose Creek Walking Tour.

Peterson said educating students outside of the classroom is a “driving guideline” at Schiffer. “Our kids seldom have opportunities to connect with the community and with nature,”  he said, adding, “So, working with SCLT is a natural fit.”

After a year away from working with community groups, students and staff were eager for a day out of doors.

“It felt a lot better. The fresh air and constant movement are great for the body,” offered Avery Schroth who spent much of the morning grubbing brush.

“I think we’re helping the community a lot. It’s a good experience,” concluded Sada Messick.

The students of Schiffer weren’t alone in giving back by helping SCLT this spring. Middle schoolers at Big Horn returned to Red Grade Trails as part of a schoolwide day of service in late May.

On this service day, Big Horn students completed 21 projects and combined to share 600 hours with their community, whether it was on the trail or in the home of a neighbor in need of some helping hands.

“Through the community service day, our students are able to see parts of our community they might not otherwise see,” relayed instructor Susie Mohrmann.

That includes Red Grade Trails, where Morhmann first began bringing young Rams at least six years ago.

“The trails are accessible, though not all of the students have experienced the trails,” she noted.

About half of this year’s crew hadn’t been to the trails before. After an afternoon in the forest, many said they were eager to return.

“It’s fun to be in the wilderness!” “We love the fresh air and the trees!” “We get to have fun with our friends!” “It’s so peaceful up here!”

Those were all comments that came quickly from the group.

“It was really fun,” concluded Lilyahna Hancock, an 8th grader who made her first visit to Red Grade Trails. After raking and smoothing tread, she said she couldn’t wait to come back. “I want to hike the trails!”

While each Big Horn Middle Schooler had their own reason for helping at Red Grade Trails, their reasons all had a similar theme, perhaps best said by 8th grader Ava Byrd. “I feel grateful because it is a healthy environment and a beautiful place to be."

We couldn’t agree more! SCLT is grateful for all the people who were able to spend time in our beautiful Bighorns backyard with us. We hope to continue to connect more people to their community and nature in the coming year. Happy Thanksgiving.

Chris Vrba is director of marketing and development for Sheridan Community Land Trust.

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