Building trails, building community
10 a.m. Saturday morning.
Elliott Drake (‘13) and I are hiking up a well-groomed, single-track trail in the bright Decorah sunlight. Later in the day, Drake and a handful of Luther students will pour their efforts into this land, crafting approximately 400 feet of fresh trail for use by the community.
This event, sponsored by Students Helping Our Community (SHOC) in partnership with Decorah Human Powered Trails (DHPT), is another in a string of service projects the group has undertaken this year.
“To finally have the build come to fruition is exciting,” Drake said. “I’m excited to have that happen. When the volunteering actually happens, that feels good.”
The students spent their time near a steep section trail known as “Boa,” which was previously too steep for most users. By rerouting the trail, they eased the climb to make it more accessible. For Drake, this is a great way to give back to a wide variety of people.
“The trail systems here are a key element of Decorah,” SHOC president Drake said. “It’s an active community. At least, the Decorah I’ve come to know. We help to increase what the trails can offer.”
Owner of Oneota River Cycles Richard “Deke” Gosen guided the members of SHOC in their efforts. Gosen does a great deal of work with DHPT in maintaining the trails.
“In developing a sense of personal well-being, physical activity is a part of that,” Gosen said. “It clears your head, it’s healthy. Heck, it just feels good. That’s a big part of what it does for the community.”
Back on trail with Drake, the use of these trails becomes apparent. As we chat, we nod greetings to the Luther women’s cross country team as they tromp past. Just prior, an older man and his dog come trekking up behind us, and overhearing our conversation, he asks Drake: “Hey, what’s SHOC?”
“Students Helping Our Community,” Drake replies. “It’s a volunteer organization. We’re going to do some work out here today.”
“Good,” the man nods, chats for a few minutes and continues on the trail, dog in tow.
This stranger is not alone in his approval.
“I think the take-away is that it’s cool to help the community, and its cool to use the trails you built yourself,” SHOC member Jayne Pearson (‘15) said.
SHOC is in its third year at Luther. Just a few weeks ago, the group volunteered at a local Habitat for Humanity build, and it has plans in the pipeline to collaborate with a local food pantry.
“I like to underline that SHOC is a self-sustaining entity,” Drake said. “We can’t function without effort from our various members. We do that pretty well I think. It’s not just a few people that run it – it’s a completely student-run organization. Everybody is playing an integral part and we wouldn’t be able to have this organization with students doing what they do. And they love to do what they do, so it works.”