Volunteer Highlight: Brian Barnes
By trade I am a computer software developer, but at my heart I consider myself to be a nature-loving conservationist. I think the outdoors provides people with the best opportunity to rejuvenate their body, mind, and soul. And so, I believe we have a duty to protect and cultivate our natural resources which make those opportunities available.
The foundation of my beliefs was developed during the formative years of my life growing up in rural south east Texas. At the time, the lakes and pine woods were for the most part untouched by sprawl and human development. I spent many days with my family on the shores of the many lakes there in solitude, fishing, camping, and boating. I grew to love being alone in the woods.
The best memories were made during the summers when I and a few friends would grab our packs, stuff them with food and sleeping bags, and head out into the large untouched forests that surrounded our community. We would spend days and weeks at a time on our own–exploring and camping and being as far away from civilization as possible. That spirit of independence taught me a lot about myself and has stayed with me throughout my life.
Years later after my service in the military, work and family brought me to Arizona and I soon discovered the state was full of parks and forests, and not simply a big desert that I had imagined in my youth. I now had a family and children of my own and I wanted to provide them with the experiences I had in my childhood. We visited parks and camped as often as we could, but the park experience was not the same. Parks force you to camp in developed sites, walk on developed trails, and view the park's sights from protected areas.
So as I began to seek out a more remote experience, I discovered the state was flush with wilderness areas specifically set aside to provide people with that very thing. I could go a wilderness, camp where I wanted, walk where I wanted and connect with that feeling of independence I had as a youth. But the thing with wilderness areas is, they are not promoted like the parks and forests. There are no commercials for them, there are no signs along the highways, and there are no brochures in the lobbies of hotels. If you want to take advantage of wilderness you have to seek them out.
It was during this process of seeking out wilderness areas that I stumbled across the Arizona Wilderness Coalition. Within the group, I find myself surrounded by kindred spirits. While wilderness areas are supposed to be primitive and remote, there is still work that needs to be done to keep access to the areas viable and, as I said before, I believe it is our duty to protect those areas.
I am keenly aware that the resources to do the work that needs to be done is limited. So groups like AWC help provide the best of both worlds, it gives the organizations responsible for the upkeep of the wilderness areas a chance to get more out of their limited resources at the same time giving people like me a chance to visit the areas, learn more about them, and lend a hand.
When I go to a wilderness, I come away with a fresh new outlook on life; when I go with the AWC I come away with the feeling Iíve helped make the place better than when I arrived. Itís a great feeling.