Local Girl Scouts troop adopts a trail in Makoshika Park

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Jason Stuart photo

Makoshika State Park manager Chris Dantic signs a trail adoption agreement with Girl Scouts Troop 2323 on Feb. 5. Girl Scout Brownie Allison Massoletti and Girl Scout Junior Emily Bennett are also pictured.

At least one of Makoshika State Park’s trails will get a little extra care and attention this year thanks to the local Girl Scouts troop and the park’s new “Adopt-a-Trail” program.

On Feb. 5, members of Girl Scouts Troop 2323 signed an agreement with Makoshika manager Chris Dantic to adopt the park’s Bluebird Trail for 2019. In doing so, they became the first group to participate in the new Adopt-a-Trail program Dantic has implemented at Makoshika.

According to troop leader Carol Rhan, it was during an excursion to Makoshika late last year to work on earning their STEM badges that her troop first heard about the new trail adoption program the park was starting, and the girls immediately pounced on the idea as something that they, as Girls Scouts, should do. Rhan said it didn’t take any convincing on her part.

“The local Girl Scouts themselves heard about it and voted to use that as their long-term ‘Take Action’ project,” Rhan said. “They thought that would be a neat thing to do to take care of that trail for them.”

Getting some extra help taking care of Makoshika’s trails is exactly why Dantic was keen to start the trail adoption program to begin with. Makoshika currently has 11 designated trails crisscrossing its more than 11,000 acres, and Dantic’s hope is to extend and add to the trail system in the coming years. But with only four full-time employees on hand — and another three state parks to take care of besides Makoshika — properly maintaining even the park’s existing trails can be a challenge.

“We’re just looking for some more support in maintaining our fantastic trails here in Makoshika State Park,” Dantic said. “I thought (the trail adoption program) was a great idea so the community could help with their state park.”

Dantic credited his AmeriCorps volunteer from last year for fleshing out the Adopt-a-Trail program and taking it out to the community to try to get local groups to adopt a trail. However, they initially had a hard time finding any group that was interested in participating, and Dantic said that until the Girl Scouts came along, they “kind of struggled to get a group on board” to adopt a trail in the park.

What the Girl Scouts — and any other group that adopts a trail in Makoshika — have officially agreed to do is to help “prep the trail” at the start and close of the tourist season, Dantic said. This spring they’ll head out to make sure the trail is ready to go for the busy summer season, and in fall they’ll go out and make sure the trail is clean and ready for the winter. In between the two days they’ve officially agreed to care for the trail they can do any other maintenance or clean-up work they want, and the park will provide the tools and equipment, Dantic said.

“It’s their trail that they’ve adopted, so they can come in and pick up litter or pull leafy spurge any day they want,” he said. “It’s wide open as to what they want to accomplish with their designated trail.”

For the Girl Scouts, adding to their collection of badges is one thing they will accomplish by adopting the Bluebird Trail. Their volunteering for the Adopta-Trail program has already earned each of the Girl Scouts of Troop 2323 their “Citizen Scientist” badges. However, Rhan said the real accomplishment is how participation in a program like this teaches girls the kind of positive impact their actions and decisions can have on their community and how they can be example-setters and leaders in the community.

“(By participating in the program) they will have a stronger sense of their community and the long-lasting impact they, as girls, can have on the park and the community,” Rhan said. “It’s all about them becoming courageous, go-getters, innovators, risk-takers and leaders.”

And for Makoshika’s new Adopt-a-Trail program, the six members of Girl Scouts Troop 2323 have definitely taken the lead and set the example, an example both Dantic and Rhan hope others will follow.

“It’s not only our number one state park in our system, it’s also our largest state park, so we need the help from the community to keep it looking nice and bright and clean for the future,” Dantic said.

Rhan strongly encouraged other local groups to follow in her Girl Scouts’ footsteps.

“If they’re already using the park and already enjoying it, why not be part of maintaining it? The kinship with the land that goes with keeping a trail clean is really valuable, and it helps build a tie with the land,” she said. “I think taking ownership of Makoshika State Park for local organizations is really important. Whether it’s a youth group or an adult group, it doesn’t matter.”

To learn more about Makoshika’s Adopt-a-Trial program, contact Dantic at 406-377-6256.

To learn more about the Girl Scouts or if your child is interested in joining the Girl Scouts, contact Rhan at crhan@girlscouts.org. Rhan noted the troop is currently working on a membership drive to grow its numbers.

“It’s never too late to join Girl Scouts,” Rhan said.

Reach Jason Stuart at dcedc@midrivers.com.