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How You Can Volunteer This Summer and
The Russian National Parks and Nature Reserve systems have teamed up with the Great Baikal Trail Association to start building the largest system of trails in all of Russia.
When it is completed, the Great Baikal Trail will cover a distance of almost 1,200 miles (or 2,000 kilometers). It will create a hiking corridor that will run around the largest lake in the world---Lake Baikal. And it will link not only 6 large national parks and nature reserves, all located on Lake Baikal's shores. It will also connect the eastern steppe of Russia with the Mongolian highlands, some 100 miles to the south of Baikal.
The Great Baikal Trail Association is now seeking volunteers to help with the second year of work on this ambitious trail. They are looking to bring together international teams that will consist of local Russians working alongside volunteers from many other countries of the world. Each team will be led by local trail building experts, who at present are busy designing the next 40-50 miles of the Trail that will be built this coming summer.
NOTE for potential volunteers: To sign up for this venture, one must be at least 18 years of age. Those with experience building trails will be encouraged to join; but 'first-timers' will also be very welcome. Some knowledge of the Russian language might be helpful, but is not required. English/Russian interpreters will be present at all project sites. Training for volunteers will be provided before the start of each project. This training will deal with all the basic techniques used in building and interpreting trails. It will also cover important safety issues.
Besides training, each volunteer will be supplied with 'free accommodation' while they work on the trail. In other words, on-site tents or home-stays will be provided for all team members. Volunteers are asked to cover only their own transportation to and from each site, as well sleeping bags, gloves, and other personal items. The GBTA is presently raising funds to see if it can provide free food for all volunteers as well. In addition---- for international team members----the Great Baikal Trail Association will try and provide assistance in securing Russian visas.
At least one project will be operating at any one time during the period between mid-May and late September of 2006. The specific timelines for each project will vary, lasting from 14 to 20 days (which includes training days). The specific schedule of projects and locations will be announced in early 2006, and posted on this web-site at that time.
As an example of possible locations, in past summers the project sites covered:
__A three mile stretch running from the visitor center at the Baikalski Nature Reserve (which is located on the southern shores of the lake), uphill to a picturesque waterfall in the heart of the reserve
__Some 4.5 miles of shoreline trail east of the town of Baikalsk. This trail is already having significant and positive impact, in that it is demonstrating to locals that hiking and other tourist activities are both economically AND environmentally more profitable than the controversial pulp and paper mill that has been operating in this town for decades.
__A 3.5 mile stretch of trail to the south of Bolshoye Goloustnoye, within Pribaikalski National Park. This is in an area where the Park has been feeling pressure to open up to large-scale resort and hotel developments----even though this would be in violation of the newly enacted Baikal Law.
__Two five- mile projects that involved replanting, restoration, and the ultimate protection of fragile stretches of trail along the far northern reaches of Baikal. This area has been battered very badly ever since the level of the lake was raised some 1.5 meters when a hydroelectric dam was built near Baikal in the 1960s.
__Two eight-mile stretches of trail within Zabaikalski National Park, one section having been built along the shores of the picturesque Chivyrkui Bay, and the other leading down from the foot of the magnificent Barguzin Mountain Range, south into the wooden Siberian town of Ust-Barguzin .
At each of these sites, volunteer teams of some 15-20 people spent much of their time out in nature, i.e., creating the trail itself, and building the bridges and making other improvements as needed. Next year, as was the case last summer, there will be one break of several days somewhere in the middle of each project, to let everyone relax and enjoy the lake. Ideally, each team will be made up of some 7-10 Russian volunteers and an equal number of international participants.
In addition, each site will be designed and built with the consultation of many Russian as well as international trail building experts, as provided by the local parks and by the GBTA and its Earth Corps partners. These experts will work in tandem with a specially trained project leader, who will be in employ of either the Great Baikal Trail Association or of the national park or nature reserve where the work is to be done. This team of leaders will ensure that the maximum benefits will accrue to the local people, with a minimum impact on the environment.
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