Water and Sand

Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water supports NPCA’s efforts to restore Joshua Tree National Park.

By Melissa Richards

For more than a decade, Joshua Tree’s Hidden Valley Trailhead, a high-traffic area in the California Desert, sat on a long list of maintenance projects that park staff wanted to tackle but didn’t have the money or capacity to address. The trailhead was in desperate need of restoration, as “social trails” (pathways created when visitors step off designated areas) cut through vegetation and caused desert sands to erode into the parking lot.

On a sunny day last October, volunteers helped reverse that damage. Forty Marines from nearby Twentynine Palms joined forces with 30-plus kids from the local chapters of Boys and Girls Clubs of America, 10 representatives from Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water, and more than 20 park staff to position rocks to mark trails, plant native vegetation, build fences, and disguise social trails with “vertical mulch”—or dead bushes and branches that cover up the damaging trails, halt erosion, and serve as a cache for seeds so that new plants can grow.

It all happened thanks to a special partnership between NPCA and Nestlé Waters North America: On behalf of its six regional water brands (Arrowhead®, Deer Park®, Ice Mountain®, Ozarka®, Poland Spring®, and Zephyrhills®), Nestlé Waters—an organization with similar goals to NPCA with respect to protecting nature’s special places—donated $600,000 to support NPCA’s work, and part of that money funded the restoration project at Joshua Tree.

“We believe in the need to help protect these parks, to restore them, and to fund some of the projects that help with those goals,” says Laetitia Allexant, a senior marketing manager with Nestlé Waters. In fact, the company’s support stretched well beyond the borders of the park: Throughout the summer, NPCA’s logo was featured on more than 50 million cases of Nestlé Waters’ Regional Spring Waters, and a Facebook promotion sponsored by Arrowhead® Brand Mountain Spring Water encouraged people to sign on to the NPCA “cause.” That program resulted in 80,000 new NPCA Facebook members and generated an additional $40,000 donation to NPCA.

Beyond these awareness and fundraising initiatives, the partnership resulted in tangible rewards as well, as felt on the ground at Joshua Tree. “We did a lot of really great work that day,” says Seth Shteir, a representative for NPCA’s California Desert field office, “but perhaps the true definition of success was that so many of these volunteers who had never visited the park before were eager to come back to explore and camp. There’s power in the act of restoration; people feel a sense of investment. They feel part of the park. And no single organization could have made this happen—everybody brought something to the table. We’re grateful for the support we received from Nestlé Waters.”

Organizing volunteer work like this isn’t easy. Staff at Joshua Tree began working with NPCA  and Nestlé Waters months before the actual event. It’s challenging to meet all the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires federal agencies to factor environmental impacts into their decision making. But Karin Messaros, Joshua Tree’s assistant superintendent, says it was worth every hurdle.

“Event organizers were blown away by the marines’ hard physical labor and the kids’ total engagement—they never stopped, they never got tired, they all stayed on task,” she says. “I encourage park managers to take the time to work on partnerships like this one. It’s a lot of work, but the rewards are amazing.”

This article appears in the Winter 2011 issue.

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