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Spending Family Time Outdoors with Wildlands Restoration Volunteers

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When I was a few months pregnant with my son Jack, I spent a lot of time thinking about frozen Snickers bars. I wanted them for dinner. I wanted them for breakfast. I debated whether to have them at all—shouldn’t I opt instead for quinoa or kale because it’s probably better for the small human who keeps bruising my rib cage from within?

Long before Jack was born, I learned one of the hard truths of parenting: being a mom means making constant trade-offs. Early on, my trade-offs seemed very food-focused, but these days, with a toddler in tow and another on the way, the choices are different but the challenge remains the same: go to the park to burn off his excess energy, or toss him in the backpack for a hike so I can burn off mine? Run the errands that have been on my to-do list for weeks, or spend an hour running trains around the table at the library? 

Fortunately, I’m lucky enough to live in a place with tons of options and miles of “natural playgrounds” just west of where I live outside Boulder.  Nonetheless, I’m constantly on the search for the “win-win” activities: the ones where we both get to play, learn, and—if we’re really lucky—do something worthwhile in the process. Wildlands Restoration Volunteers, a local non-profit whose mission is to heal the land and build community, checks all these boxes.

Full disclosure: I work at WRV, and my kid isn’t quite old enough to participate in these programs yet, but as a mom myself and a long-time educator, I can’t wait until he is. WRV organizes stewardship and restoration projects for youth and adults—things like planting shrubs, collecting native seed, building trails, and much more—in partnership with local land agencies like Lory State Park, White River National Forest, or the City of Boulder. Projects range from a few hours in the morning or evening nearby to a weekend-long camping trip in the mountains.

While many projects are accessible for families with children aged eight and up, WRV also has family-friendly projects that are specifically designed to make it easy for parents with even younger kids (~age five and up to get out, give back, and get a break at the same time. Family projects are close to the Front Range, non-technical (perfect for beginners of all ages), and best of all, they feature fun, educational activities for kids. Joining WRV for a project focused on pulling invasive species? Kids can hang out with you, but they can also participate in their own weeding “search-and-destroy” missions, supervised by qualified staff and interspersed with nature play, a little bit of learning, and lots of snacks and pee breaks. Bringing your kids for a morning planting project? Again, kids can participate too, but they can also explore the creek and learn about what lives there and why it matters.

Wildlands Restoration Volunteers provides all the tools, gear, and snacks you’ll need on every project, and most projects also include delicious lunches. Even better, projects inevitably involve awesome people—because let’s face it, who else spends their Saturdays volunteering? Jack is still little, but I know we’ll be doing a lot of these projects in years to come, because on every project, I meet someone great, learn something new, get a little dirty, and have a lot of fun. No trade-offs necessary.

To learn more about WRV’s family-friendly events, like the Family Project at Sombrero Marsh or one of our seed collections (dates coming soon), visit our website.

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