On February 2, Punxsutawney Phil stepped out of his tiny little home and saw his shadow. And that meant six more weeks of winter! Well, those six weeks are just about up, which can only mean one thing: Brace yourself … spring is coming! Or, as we call it around here, mud season. The beginning of my very favorite season brings us many exciting things: green grass, new growth, animals emerging from hibernation, warmer temperatures and spring trail cleanups!

Winters can be hard on trails. Many will need both cleanup and maintenance come springtime. You can contact your local or state park system to see if they have anything planned, or you can plan your own trail cleanup hike with your Hike it Baby branch!

Hike it Baby offers lots of information on organizing a trail cleanup, and safety is a consideration when participating in a trail cleanup. Some of these things may seem like common sense, but it’s always nice to double check your preparedness whenever you try something new (or for the first time in a while).

Trail cleanup safety by Julie McNulty for Hike it Baby

5 Tips for Trail Cleanup Safety

1. Bring proper cleanup supplies

Certain supplies will come in handy during a trail cleanup. This would include gloves, trash grabbers and bags. It’s a good idea to have the littles carry the trash bag instead of picking up trash. They may not know what they should and shouldn’t touch.

2. Work in pairs or groups

Sticking together and staying in communication with the organizer are very important. Make sure you have a charged cell phone or walkie-talkie with you. A compass could also come in handy if you’re off the beaten path. Make sure someone knows exactly what area your group will be working in. Check in often with the organizer and stay close to your partner or group. Or, if you’re hosting the hike, help the group stay together and communicate the meet up locations and times.

3. Bring your normal safety supplies

All normal hiking injuries can occur on a trail cleanup. In fact, after winter, the trail will likely be in worse shape than usual, so be prepared. Make sure you pack your typical first aid kit, plus plenty of water and snacks.

4. Give the kiddos simple tasks

The concept of trail cleanup is super important to share with our kids beginning at a young age as it teaches them to be stewards for our trails and parks. It’s even better to reinforce as they get older.

That being said, not every trail cleanup is organized with young children in mind. If attending a hike organized by another group or parks department, speak to the cleanup organizer before deciding whether or not you will bring young children. Make sure there will be tasks suitable for their age and ability.

With supervision and proper gloves and grabbers, tiny people are great at holding trash bags, spying trash, and they love to use trash grabbers! Older kids can also be great to pair with younger kids.

If hosting your own hike, make sure you communicate what supplies to bring and provide safety tips during Welcome Circle.

5. Use caution

Don’t ever touch anything sharp or lift anything too heavy. While you will typically feel totally awesome after participating in a trail cleanup, you might not if you cut yourself and get an infection. After winter, there could be trees or large branches across the trail. Don’t try to be the hero and lift something too heavy on your own. Even professional bodybuilders use a spotter to lift. Bring a notepad with you and document anything you can’t handle. Then give this list to the trail cleanup organizer so that the proper crew can address it. (Or, if you’re hosting, contact the parks department with the information.)

For toddlers and little kids, have them spot the trash (“I spy!”) instead of picking it up. This will ensure they aren’t picking up anything dangerous or unsanitary.

What are your safety tips for trail cleanup? Have a question about safety while participating in a trail cleanup? Leave a comment or a question below!

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Photos by Vong Hamilton.

Hike it Baby hikes are hosted by volunteers who have no professional training and are not experts to guide families on hikes. They are people who want to raise a generation to love the outdoors and they accomplish this by facilitating outings for all to join. Our tips are gathered from collective experience. As with any physical activity, please be sure to check with your healthcare provider and other experts when hiking with your children.

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