Connecting With Nature—and Each Other

November 07, 2018
Nicole Vargas
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference


Connecting With Nature—and Each Other
Conservation Corps Crew Member Nicole Vargas at the waterfall at Ramapo Valley County Reservation.


The unifying power of trails is extraordinary. Working on a Trail Conference Conservation Corps crew this season, I had the privilege of witnessing it firsthand.

At Ramapo Valley County Reservation, there is a constant stream of curious faces wondering what the crew is doing—why the trail is roped off with caution tape or watching in awe as we set a stone step by hand. And while all these interactions with visitors have been pleasant, one moment this season really stands out.

A family whose patriarch spoke no English came by the worksite. In walking past, he asked questions aloud in Spanish. I turned to him, and while his family began to explain to me in English what he had said, I began answering the gentlemen’s questions in Spanish.

The effect of having this connection was instantaneous and obvious. Not just the man, but his whole family began speaking in Spanish, asking me questions about who I was and what I was doing. It was the same conversation that I’d had with many other passersby before, but this one difference, this one connection, had a huge impact.

Having a shared language allowed this family to relax and really get to know who was working in their park, maybe even sparking a deeper sense of responsibility for these projects. This Hispanic family now knows that there is someone like them, cut from the same cultural cloth, who cares for the trails they tread and love.

The Trail Conference’s Conservation Corps trains the next generation of environmental stewards to preserve the integrity of trails and natural areas. We engage visitors to inspire a greater appreciation for the care that open space requires through volunteerism—and smiles and conversation. Want to learn more? Visit