Emma Patterson

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The Environmental Center of San Luis Obispo (ECOSLO) will hold a SLO Steward Workday and docent-led hike Saturday at Bishop Peak.

The event will begin at the Bishop Peak trailhead, located off of Foothill Boulevard on Patricia Drive, just past Patricia Court on the left. The workday will be from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m., with the hike starting at 9 a.m.

It aims to teach community members about the importance of open space, while beautifying a famous local trail.

“In SLO we’re really blessed to have all this open space, but we don’t really have as many rangers to maintain that space as we’d like,” ECOSLO Program Coordinator Michael Heater said. “So we rely on these dedicated, passionate volunteers to come help the rangers out.”

ECOSLO also puts on a number of docent and ranger-lead hikes throughout San Luis Obispo County.

While hiking, volunteers can learn about local flora and fauna, as well as area history. While they are learning, they provide trail maintenance, such as picking up trash, planting trees, painting benches, preventing trail erosion, picking up weeds and other “things to make the trails safer and nicer for everyone,” Heater said.

ECOSLO recently received a grant from the Community Foundation of San Luis Obispo to help establish a training program for a new generation of docents.

Anyone who is interested in the outdoors and wants to volunteer their time to lead hikes is welcome to apply. Docents will be trained with guides and books, so no previous knowledge is required.

“We want a passionate person who is really good at speaking to just regular people about anything they like,” Heater said.

Along with the SLO Steward Workdays and guided hikes, ECOSLO provides the opportunity for individuals and groups to adopt areas of land.

“We have our hands tied in a lot of projects,” Heater said. “If you want to feel like you sort of have an ownership to a certain trail you can … Adopt-a-Trail or Adopt-a-Park.”

Through the Adopt-a-Trail or Park program, ECOSLO pairs volunteers with a specific trail or park that fits their individual needs depending on the size of the group adopting, the frequency that they wish to clean-up and the location in which they want to volunteer.

Trail and park adopters volunteer anywhere from once a week to once a month. They clean up and report any hazards at the location to ECOSLO.

The Bishop Peak trail was adopted by Cal Poly’s chapter of Alpha Rho Chi – the largest social and professional fraternity comprised of both men and women in the United States – three years ago.

“We really want to get involved in our community and show that we’re not just part of Cal Poly but we are part of San Luis Obispo,” architecture sophomore and Alpha Rho Chi Philanthropy Chair Lisa-Marie Mueller said.

Every week, two volunteers from Alpha Rho Chi hike Bishop Peak picking up trash and reporting back to ECOSLO the time they spent volunteering, as well as anything that’s wrong with the trail.

Working with ECOSLO “helps us be involved in preserving the beautiful trails around SLO, which we’re all really grateful for,” Mueller said. “A lot of our brothers really enjoy outdoors, and so we just want to continue using the trails … we just felt it was a nice way to do our part.”

Cal Poly students were also present at ECOSLO’s largest clean-up event this past September. California Coastal Clean-up Day – held annually on the third weekend of September – had 1,600 volunteers last year, 748 being Week of Welcome participants from Cal Poly, who helped to pick-up more than 2,800 pounds of trash and recyclables throughout the San Luis Obispo County coastline.

ECOSLO welcomes and encourages any students who want to help to come out and participate.

“We all cherish the open space here in San Luis Obispo,” Heater said. “This is a great experience to go out and hike, be outside with your friends, and feel like you’ve accomplished something, feel like you’ve really helped San Luis Obispo.”

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