Photo above by Grounds Keeper Andrew Forestell @ReptarHikes
Granite Gear’s Grounds Keepers program has come to an end in its inaugural year, resulting in 17 hikers removing a total of 1,117.8 pounds of trash from the Pacific Crest Trail, Appalachian Trail, Pacific Northwest Trail, Arizona Trail, Colorado Trail, Florida Scenic Trail and Superior Hiking Trail. Additionally, over 8,500 pounds of trash has been removed from public lands and waterways thanks to Granite Gear employees and partners Packing It Out and Adventure Stewardship Alliance.
“We’re passionate about our public lands and cleaning them up is how we can give back,” Rob Coughlin, VP of Sales and Marketing said. “By creating the Grounds Keepers program and supporting Packing It Out and Adventure Stewardship Alliance, we’ve partnered with individuals who have the means and passion to be out there doing really hard and admirable work.”
Gretchen Matt, the first Grounds Keeper to hit the trail this year, began the Florida Scenic Trail in January and navigated around alligators while packing out 30 pounds of trash. Now 170 pounds cleaner, the Arizona Trail was cleaned up by Darby Lamb and Ali Edwards and friends. Granite Gear’s backyard trail, the Superior Hiking Trail, is many beer cans and bottles cleaner thanks to the work of Duluth local Lloyd Fisher. Other members of the 2017 program are experienced hikers Leland Kolson, Kris Rolla, Stephen Reiner, Sam Kaelin, father-son duo Charles and Peter Rasco, Andrew Forestell, Rory McGonigle, Lucy Green, Shawnté Salabert, Yehudah Rice and Nate Ryckman. Additionally, many partners and friends supported these individuals in their efforts to clean up the trails.
“Being a Grounds Keeper means you must have respect for the Earth and commit to packing out items that don’t belong in natural spaces,” Grounds Keeper Lloyd Fisher of Duluth said. “I enjoyed being a part of the program and spreading the positive message of ecological preservation with the world.”
Trash items found ranged from food wrappers to hub caps to bowling balls. Total trash counts from each trail vary for many different reasons. Some trails are heavily littered due to frequent section hiking by locals. Other trails are cleaner because they’re less popular or because more and more thru-hikers are aware of Leave No Trace principles and are packing out their own trash as best they can. Also, micro-trash may not weigh much, but it can be found almost everywhere. In the end, making an impact is the main goal. Granite Gear’s strategy for 2018 is to bring on Grounds Keepers who will commit to hiking a long trail or at least 300 miles of section or community trails throughout the season.
The Grounds Keepers program was originally inspired by the Packing It Out team, whose Founder, Seth Orme, and teammate, Abigail Taylor, just biked 4,500 miles across the country, picking up 2,100 pounds of trash and hosting clean ups along the way. The Adventure Stewardship Alliance was formed by a former Packing It Out team member Paul Twedt and Michael Anderson. Creating the Three Rivers Cleanup Project, the duo paddled 1156 miles; 239 miles on the Namekagon/St.Croix Riverway; 302 miles on the Minnesota River; and 617 miles on the Mississippi River. In total, they removed 6,790.5 pounds of litter, including 50 tires, one refrigerator and a four foot tall teddy bear.
Expanding its partnerships in 2018, Granite Gear intends to continue to grow the Grounds Keeper program. Applications for the 2018 team of 25 individuals will open up this December. Visit Granite Gear’s Facebook or the Grounds Keepers Instagram to learn more. For more information on any of Granite Gear’s programs or sponsorships, please contact Shelly Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.