Building and Utilizing a Skilled Volunteer Stewardship Corps

Libby Collins1*, Briana Board2 

1Colorado West Land Trust/ Grand Junction, CO, USA
2EUREKA! McConnell Science Museum/ Grand Junction, CO, USA

As pressures from drought, climate change and increased outdoor recreation increase, so does the need for restoration. Land Managers and private landowners are now open to well directed restoration initiatives that utilize community volunteers. Starting in the summer of 2020, the Monument Stewards, an outdoor volunteer corps, has worked weekly at the Lunch Loop Trailhead, along No Thoroughfare Wash, and along the paved Monument Trail under the direction of Libby Collins from Colorado West Land Trust and Briana Board from EUREKA! Science Museum. Having two organizations partner to lead the Monument Stewards has contributed to the consistency as well as the successes of collaborating with Land Managers, growing and sustaining a vibrant volunteer base, determining appropriate project scope, securing funding, and engaging diverse groups of stakeholders. The weekly drop-in model for volunteering has proven to be popular with community members who have taken ownership and are engaged in making decisions about the project. Native vegetation now thrives along much of the Monument Trail, weed regrowth is monitored and addressed, Tamarisk regrowth is monitored and managed, and native plant demonstration gardens at the Lunch Loop Trailhead are maintained. Along with these successes, challenges have included consistent monitoring, unpredictable group size and the monotony of weed removal. As a trained and skilled volunteer stewardship corps, these volunteers play a significant role in supporting wildlife habitat, preserving popular open spaces, and connecting our communities to nature. Libby and Briana will share experiences and lessons learned as well as outline their strategy for continuing to build a skilled volunteer stewardship corps.