Like many of the best ideas, Clean Trails was more of a slow trickle than a sudden thunderclap. Steve Jewett was always an avid hiker and climber, and gradually he became aware of the trash problem on his favorite trails in the San Diego area. He and Bill Willoughby began to pick up trash on their hikes together, at first just picking up what they could fit in their pockets and later carrying trash bags with them. There was still the problem of trash they didn’t want to touch with their bare hands, so one day Steve started carrying a set of barbecue tongs. Other recreationalists on the trail noticed, and after they stopped laughing many of them said thank you.
Steve and Bill realized they were having fun, so they began to brainstorm. How could they make a wider impact on the problem? The basic ethic was already in place and effectively communicated by the Leave No Trace organization. How could they help operationalize the principles of Leave No Trace?
As a self-described serial entrepreneur, Steve tended to think in domain names. He went home one day in 2010 and searched the internet for key words, finally hitting on the perfect name: Clean Trails. The domain name cleantrails.org was already taken, but Steve waited patiently for it to expire so he could buy it. Bill, also an entrepreneur, designed a logo and put together a basic business structure for the organization.
The next task was to come up with tools for people to use. Steve tested different types of tongs, looking for something small, lightweight and perhaps a bit less ridiculous-looking than barbecue tongs. Walking by the dog waste bags at trailheads, he also thought about having “people bags.” He approached Bob Hahn of the city of Poway and asked if he might use the existing dog bag box at the Iron Mountain trailhead, and Bob loved the idea. Bill designed a trailhead box, and the first one was installed in 2013.
Our trails get littered in many ways; sometimes by the unknowledgeable, sometimes by the uncaring, and sometimes by the careless. Most folks want their trails to look as pristine as Mother Nature intended. But it takes a little effort and so we need your help. Won't you roll up your sleeves and exert a little elbow grease on your next hike? All we ask is that you pick up just one piece of litter. You'll be pleasantly surprised how good it makes you feel and you just might inspire someone else to do the same.
If you like the result, perhaps you'll consider joining us. We're a simple group with simple rules, so it's pretty easy to become an official member. All we need is your email address so we can keep in touch, and the name and location of your favorite trail. We'll put you on our list and send you a membership certificate. You'll gain the satisfaction of helping to take care of a place you love, and perhaps most importantly, you’ll have fun doing it.
We’re trying to start a movement, so if you could "Like" us on your social media of choice, that would be great! After all, what's not to "Like" about Clean Trails?