My family has a litter habit. Not the bad behavior, tossing-trash-out-the car-window kind. This is more like a treasure hunt and maybe plays a small role to help take care of the places that we wander and explore. It’s our way to give back to the places that help keep us sane and healthy.

It’s not something we plan really, but the high-energy dog is almost always with us when we hit the parks, trails or forest, and our walk supplies always include several dog poop bags for cleaning up after her. It’s easy to use an empty bag for picking up any bits of trash we find along the way. Thankfully, the bag is not often full after a visit to most Bend parks and trails.

April is Earth Month and a good annual reminder of the importance of taking care of our favorite outdoor places. Getting involved can be as simple as grabbing a bag and picking up a few pieces of litter on your next walk, or doing something more organized and signing up to be a volunteer to help care for the parks and trails in our community.

Take on a one-day project

Small groups from clubs, schools, churches, businesses and even families can help with seasonal landscape maintenance projects, such as raking out planting areas, pulling weeds or spreading bark mulch. These are generally two or three hours and go a long way to not only beautify the park, but also support keeping moisture around trees and plants and reduce the need for other weed -management measures.

Adopt-a-Park or Trail Section

If you want to volunteer more than one day, but need something flexible and a little less like working in your yard, this is an easy opportunity to love. Volunteers adopt a specific site and agree to visit often to help with litter, pull weeds and to keep an eye out for vandalism, weather damage or anything that might be a concern. With more than 80 parks and 80+ miles of trails, many volunteers adopt a site close to their home or office where visiting is simple, and some continue their adoption for many years. Some adopters take on seasonal landscape maintenance projects too.

Be a host in the park

Bend Park & Recreation District hosts are the friendly faces you might see by the parking area at Riley Ranch Nature Reserve, and soon, walking the trails in Shevlin Park. Volunteer hosts welcome visitors to offer information and share reminder for park rules : For Riley Ranch, that means no dogs and no bikes; for Shevlin, it’s a thank you for keeping dogs on leash. Volunteers cover a weekly two-hour shift, and many report that their time spent in the parks is the highlight of their week. There are volunteer host shifts available at both Riley Ranch and Shevlin Parks.

Goose management

Canada geese can be detrimental to the parks, and volunteers help keep the birds moving and off the turf.

My dog needs to stick with our litter clean-up walks, but if your pet can reliably respond to commands, has the instinct to herd and chase and the two of you enjoy walks together in the parks , this might be an opportunity to volunteer as a team. Dogs and their owners must pass an evaluation before they are approved for volunteering.

In April, consider if there’s something you can do to take care of the natural spaces that you enjoy.

Kim Johnson is the community engagement supervisor for the Bend Park & Recreation District.

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