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Small Steps Lead to Big Things

Posted by Erika Haugen-Goodman at Nov 08, 2022 03:41 PM |
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A green space close to home can be a grounding element in a fast-paced world.

It’s easy to feel lost in a world that moves fast. The last few years have brought that sentiment to the forefront of many people’s lives, mine being no exception. Juggling the weight of personal responsibilities and the seemingly endless cycle of events that impact lives near and far makes for a precarious existence that leaves little room for the restorative moments between. But I’ve found that those moments offer far more than just solace, they give us a chance to find our place in the world. 

Green forest with mossy undergrowth
It's easy to see how you can get lost (in a good way!) in a park even a short walk, bus ride or drive from home. Photo by Erika Haugen-Goodman.

 When I wander to my local park I take my camera with me. Looking through the viewfinder I see the ferns and the trees, the winding, serpentine trail that weaves through the undergrowth. I also see the hidden things that lie just out of sight. The things that don’t show up on a photograph. I see why we, as hikers and individuals with lives full of plans and responsibilities, are needed. If we, ourselves, don’t care for these places or their outcomes, who will? If we leave things to their own devices, will that elm tree still be there in five years? Will the trail even exist and offer me a chance to wander the forest, or the coastline?

I felt I’d grown apathetic in the past few years. It’s an honest truth I’ve had to come to terms with. What good, or what impact might I even have in a world that speeds by, with events larger than life taking place alongside my own demands? But those moments, where I feel the salty air cling to my face walking an oceanside trail, or where the wind stirs the tall grasses into calming whisper, tell me this is important. I recognize that my contribution does matter, big or small, for trails right near my own home. 

trees at beach
Double exposure of trees at the beach. Wandering urban green spaces lets my mind lean toward the creative. Photo by Erika Haugen-Goodman.

You might be wondering how someone can make a difference when we’re left with so little time between the myriad of life events we manage on a daily basis. The truth is, no one answer fits us all, but even small things that seem unimportant are meaningful. 

In a way, working at WTA is cheating in that regard. My days consist of working on our Trail Next Door team where I help connect the dots between planning and trail work to make more urban green spaces accessible. You might have even heard of it (at least I hope you have, and if not, take a look!). The work can be slow at times, and I don’t always see my immediate impact. Projects can take months, and our overall vision for trails is an ongoing thing that will always be a part of protecting Washington’s green spaces. Despite that, I know that step by step, I’m working toward a goal. But we don’t all have to work at WTA or even make a career out of the outdoors to make positive changes right in our neighborhoods. Even small acts can have larger impacts than we might think. 

bird sitting on fence in park
One of the countless scenes I've enjoyed stumbling across on urban walks and hikes close to home in Seattle. Photo by Erika Haugen-Goodman.

Our contributions can come in many forms, be it from writing trip reports, joining WTA for a work party or donating so WTA can continue work on trails close to home. All of them are impactful. Realizing that gave me encouragement. It means that even though the world is moving fast, we can slow it down and play a part in something meaningful. My small contribution is going toward something that I can have a stake and take pride in, and you can too.

Now, when I wander to my neighborhood park and I look through my camera’s lens I not only see the towering trees, the meandering trails, the inexplicable beauty that only nature can provide, but I also see myself as a part of these places. I see how Glendale Forest has transformed from an empty plot of invasive vegetation to a space with actual trails winding through the woods. I see big plans for future projects across the state. And I can see how the contributions of every WTA member, volunteer and trip reporter move us one step closer to those goals.

Thinking about heading out on a local trail? Make sure to write a trip report from your outing so other hikers know what to expect!