Students to spend Spring Break in Utah’s backcountry

By Edgar Zuniga Jr.

Backpacking and clearing trails in Utah’s backcountry is one way U students can spend their spring break.

Students not going on the U-sponsored Alternative Spring Break can still sign up for the trip Utah Backcountry Volunteers is offering in Zion’s National Park in Southern Utah from March 16 to 22.

Participants will have a chance to work servicing trails with park rangers. The organization, founded in 2006, has offered service trips before, but this is the first one specifically designed for students.

“I thought it was really amazing to spend a week working in the trails, and I got to know the people who manage the lands,” said Sharon Leopardi, a senior in geography and environmental studies who volunteered on the trip last year.

The organization’s mission is “to improve the natural state of public lands in Utah by recruiting, organizing and leading volunteers on work service trips,” according to its website.

Dave Pacheco, founder and director of Utah Backcountry Volunteers, is a 1991 U alumnus who has dedicated his life to wilderness advocacy issues. For many years, Pacheco worked with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. He moved on to found UBV because he saw a need for service groups who do work on the ground level instead of only focusing on policy issues. While political advocacy for the maintenance of Utah’s wilderness is important, the work on the ground must be done, Pacheco said.

The trip costs $200. Thirty dollars of the cost goes toward an annual membership in the organization. The fee covers all meals for the trip and goes toward helping the organization operate. Participants must arrange their own travel to and from Zion’s National Park as well as provide all equipment they will need, such as tents and personal safety gear.

“I’m going on (the trip) because I like doing service, and, I mean, it just gives you an opportunity to do something on a bigger scale and just to be part of something that is really making a difference,” said Carrie Mehr, a junior in international studies. “I figure there will be other people around my age who are outdoors-oriented, and I’ll be able to serve and network with people who care about the environment.”

The cost of the trip is tax deductible. All participants must be 18 years old or older, in good physical condition and must have medical insurance.

For more information or to register for the trip, visit

[email protected]

Dave Pacheco

Sharon Leopardi cleans up hiking trails in Utah’s backcountry as part of the alternative spring break last year.