Maintaining your natural resources
The outdoor camp environment is unique to each organization and can vary widely in size and offerings. Thoughtful planning of natural resource maintenance can be beneficial to almost everyone.
If this winter is your slow season, it is the ideal time to conduct a review of your grounds while campers and retreaters are few. This way, it’s one less thing to add to your to-list once peak camping season arrives.
First: Check your trees
The importance of camp trees and vegetation can hardly be overstated. It’s probably one of your camp’s biggest assets. Not only does it provide the escape to nature that many campers are seeking, it provides a multitude of other benefits like shade, wind block, trails and locations for team activities.
- Visual inspections. Survey all of your trees for any signs of distress, like discoloration or unusual markings on bark, needles or leaves. Sick or weak trees can lead to injuries later if they’re not treated. Take the time to document your inspection, note any issues and your course of action.
- Special checks after strong storms. Winter wind, heavy rain or snow or even drought can cause excessive stress or damage to trees. If you’ve had a severe storm, be sure to check out the trees around camp afterward.
- Falling limbs can be dangerous. Focus your inspection efforts around buildings and high-traffic areas. Keep an eye out for loose hanging trees caught in the canopy, and if you find one, close off the area below until it can be safely removed.
- Check with professionals. If you are unsure about the health of any of your trees, consult with a professional tree service or arborist for opinions on suggested maintenance.
Second: Create zones of defensible space
With all of the wildfires in 2017, it’s heightened awareness about how wildfires spread and what to do to prevent them. Wintertime is a great opportunity to overhaul your grounds and clear vegetation from around your buildings that increase the threat of wildfire hazard.
- For the 0-5 feet zone. Cut and remove combustible materials such as dead leaves and needles, firewood and tall grasses within 0-5 feet of your buildings. Remove vegetation that hangs over buildings as well.
- For the 5-30 feet zone. Clear shrubs, brush and other “ladder fuels” from beneath trees that could allow flames to climb to the tree canopy. Trim or thin out trees so there is space between them.
- For the 30-100 feet zone. Remove dead or dying trees and dead vegetation within live plants and trees. Again, trim ladder fuels which could allow flames to climb and spread.
Third: Keep the paths and trails clear
It’s easy to let walking paths and trails grow over, as it’s part of the natural state. But in order to practice safe hiking, it’s important to maintain and clear any hazards.
- Trips and falls. While you inspect your paths and trails, look for exposed tree roots, holes, or other issues that may cause someone to fall or twist an ankle. Correct any issues as you find them.
- Overhang: think bigger. Remember to look above you when inspecting your trails and paths as well, as sometimes paths will be used by larger groups in rows of two or more. Remove low-hanging branches, sticks or overgrown brush on the side of the trail to prevent injuries to those not paying attention while walking.
- Step by step. Do any of your trails or paths take campers over outdoor steps? If so, make sure steps are sturdy with no loose pieces or holes. Handrails should be secure as well.
- Lighting the way. Even in a camp setting, it’s important that campers be able to safely traverse the terrain at night. Consider adding lighting in strategic areas to prevent unnecessary injuries.
Fourth: Evaluate the waterfront
Winter is also the ideal time to check on your waterfront areas. When lakes, ponds and water frontage is not in use, consider any maintenance that may need to be done to improve water safety in the summer. Also be sure that your perimeter is clearly marked with signage to discourage anyone from entering during the winter.
- Slope matters. Water frontage should gradually slope into the water to ensure proper drainage. Check to be sure the area is also free of hazards that may cause someone to trip and fall into the water if they are unseen.