Why I volunteer: Keeping trails in shape

Stefan Israel

Editor’s note: As part of Xpress’ Spring Nonprofit Issue, we asked residents to send in accounts of their volunteer work with local nonprofits. See all 12 responses in this week’s print edition. 

Stefan Israel is a volunteer with Rock Crushers, which maintains hiking trails, particularly in the Gerton-Lake Lure area. The group serves the nonprofit Conserving Carolina, which works to protect, restore and inspire appreciation of the natural world.

Xpress: When and why did you begin volunteering for Conserving Carolina/Rock Crushers? 

Israel: I started in spring 2018.  I was hiking local trails and saw they needed work. I started helping the Clarke family (Hickory Nut Gap store and all that) on their trails, and folks suggested I volunteer for the Rock Crushers. I was told they’d train me very well, and soon I was putting in hundreds of hours of work a year for Conserving Carolina.

We’re called Rock Crushers for making “artisanal gravel” along the trails, though that’s just a fraction of our trail work — but a dramatic one.

What do you do at the nonprofit and what keeps you returning to the volunteer position? 

I’m now one of the senior volunteer Rock Crushers.  We volunteers don’t operate the chain saw or Bobcats for cutting new trails, nor lay the route. But we do the rest: shape the trail, finesse how water will flow to prevent erosion, build log steps, build pillow-sized rock stairs (you really appreciate the neolithic engineers after this), crush rock to gravel, cut away downed trees, pull out invasive plants, cooperate with surrounding landowners, advise hikers.

It’s great exercise, great community service and great fellowship.

What do you wish you’d known prior to starting? 

I wish I’d known about Rock Crushers earlier!  Once I started, they trained me up well and thoroughly. I pay that back now with new people.

What do you tell folks who are interested in volunteering but have yet to commit? 

Join and labor. And you can eat all the ice cream you want, guilt-free. You won’t need a gym membership.

It’s six-ish hours Wednesdays when you’re free. It’s hard labor, it’s very rewarding, it’s a warm group of hardworking friends. If that’s too much, take a look at our Kudzu Warriors — heck, we’re not the only trails or habitat group, find any good group and join ’em!


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