MIDDLE RIVER — Around 100 walkers, paddlers and cyclists will traverse habitats that encompass rivers and a range of elevations for the second-annual Gunpowder Watershed Challenge in September. By harnessing the power of social media, the explorers will seek to raise $15,000 for the Gunpowder Valley Conservancy to continue to preserve and protect natural areas in the watershed, according to executive director Lou Etgen.
Founded in 1979 in Kingsville, Maryland, GVC is Middle River and White Marsh’s local land trust and wetland restoration non-profit, and it is promoting a virtual challenge in which participants ask others to pledge a dollar amount for every mile traveled to go toward supporting the organization. Etgen said that the organization has a goal of getting people outside in the watershed.
“People take care of things they love, and if we get people out who love the watershed we hope to get them to help us take care of it,” he said.
GVC encourages participants to travel the total length of the watershed, if possible, which is estimated at 45 miles from the most northerly point in Pennsylvania to the beaches of Chesapeake Bay.
Etgen hiked the full distance last year in five days and he plans to do it again this year. If people can’t make it to the watershed, they are encouraged to walk in parks or along other routes to meet their goal.
“There is a value to your personal health to being out in the woods and in nature,” Etgen said.
Each participant will have the distance traveled and funds raised recorded in an online system on the GVC’s website, partly to set up a sporting challenge between those involved. All of the money raised will go the nonprofit to plant trees, place rain gardens to soak up stormwater, and other work to return the land to its original state. Last year, the organization raised over $10,000, so this year, it set a higher goal.
An objective for Etgen in participating the challenge, he said, is to highlight the possibility of a trail that routes directly from the top of the watershed to the bottom.
“We are laying the seed for that right now,” Etgen said. “We hope to work with the park systems and through our own preservation and conservation work to one day create the capability.”
GVC’s mission statement is to “educate and mobilize people” for the watershed, and around a million people visit or live in the watershed every year, according to Etgen.
“Hopefully, we can reach many of those people with a message of protection and restoration of the watershed,” he said.
Participants are encouraged to wear their green event t-shirts on the trails to make them instantly identifiable as GVC explorers.