By Karen McBride
In the Spring of 1987, the Forest Service appealed for volunteer help, and a small group of caring individuals responded. They formed a non-profit organization called the Friends of Madera Canyon and pledged to “…assist in advancing historical, scientific, educational and interpretive programs in Madera Canyon.” They proclaimed that their “goals and objectives are to: heighten public interest in conservation; assist the Forest Service and operations; assist in data gathering and public feedback; and generally assist the Forest Service in its effort to provide rewarding recreational opportunities for all visitors.”
Since that time, the Friends have certainly been fulfilling their mission. Groups of dedicated volunteers, quietly and without fanfare, clean up the Canyon picnic areas every Monday morning after the weekend picnickers and visitors have left. They also comb the parking and roadside areas, check the trailhead card boxes, clean out the barbecue grills, and generally spiffy up the place. They are probably up there this morning in the snow. As you can see, I wimped out, but I'd be willing to bet they didn't.
Another crew mans the Proctor entrance station (Visitor Information Station) from 12:00 - 4:00 on Saturdays and Sundays. They hand out brochures, give trail advice, answer questions, and even give directions to rare birds.
Others give up their Thursday mornings in the spring to lead local fourth-grade students along the trails, helping them to learn more about the flora and fauna and to appreciate the Canyon's fragile eco-systems. They provide teaching materials to classroom teachers and will even travel to schools to make presentations to those students unable to schedule a walk in the canyon.
Then there is a committee that coordinates outings with local nursing homes, helps with their cook-outs and picnics, guides their residents along the Accessible Trails, and gets a lot of people into the out-of-doors who might not otherwise have the opportunity.
And I mustn't forget the Friends' members who are building houses for bats and keeping bat records, studying trogons and hummingbirds for future generations (of both birds and people), designing and purchasing trail and interpretive signs, making videos and writing books about the Canyon, designing and printing Canyon brochures, writing and mailing out the Canyon Chatter newsletter, developing and updating the Friends' website, and working with the Forest Service to repair trails and oversee Madera's general health and welfare.
If you want to get involved in a truly worthy cause, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Even if you are not the outdoor type or don't wish to physically participate, remember that all of these projects cost money. Your membership dues would certainly help. You and your family can join the Friends of Madera Canyon for as little as $35 per year. Individual or family lifetime memberships are $500.