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By Emily Bontrager
The Back Country Horsemen of Missouri (BCHMO) is a nonprofit organization that helps protect and maintain Missouri trails for equestrians and the public to enjoy.
Becki Krueger, 63, is from Medill, Missouri and she is a member of the Northeast Missouri chapter, NEMO BCHMO.
Becki first heard about the volunteer-based organization in 2007 from Mary Church, who wanted to start a chapter at the Mark Twain Lake.
Over the years, Becki has served the NEMO chapter as the secretary, treasurer, and Trail Master (president). She is currently a Board Chairman for the BCHMO and one of two directors for the national board of Back Country Horsemen of America (BCHA).
Currently, there are 32 states across the United States that help maintain trails. Around 300 members make up the 11 chapters in the state of Missouri.
The NEMO BCHMO chapter has around 40 members. Some members are from Clark, Ralls, and Marion counties in Missouri, while other members are from Iowa and Illinois.
According to Becki, the objective of the BCHMO chapters is “to serve, educate, and advocate.”
“We are a volunteer service organization. We work with land managers in the state of Missouri to help maintain the trails and service education. We teach Leave No Trace, and educate people,” Becki said.
“We go out and advocate for keeping trails open for multi-use trails, not only for equestrians, but hikers and bikers too.”
BCHMO works with multiple agencies to help clear and preserve trails.
These agencies include the Missouri Department of Conservation, Missouri State Parks, National Park Service, US Army Corps of Engineers, and the US Forest Service. The chapter also works with the L-A-D Foundation and the FOREST Council.
The NEMO chapter maintains trails at two different locations, including Mark Twain Lake, which is located in Monroe and Ralls counties in Missouri, and Deer Ridge Conservation Area, which is located northeast of La Belle, Missouri.
At Mark Twain Lake, the chapter maintains over 30 miles of trails and at Deer Ridge Conservation Area, they maintain 13 miles of trails.
“We do basic trail maintenance, which basically means cleaning, clipping, lopping, and chainsaw work. We do have some people in the state of Missouri that are chainsaw certified with the Forest Service. I am one of those, so I can actually fell a tree,” Becki said.
The group also sprays weeds, mows parking lots when needed, and picks up any trash along the trails.
“We build hitching posts, and there is a cemetery at Mark Twain Lake that we keep the weeds and brush out of,” Becki said.
The BCHMO has also installed mounting blocks in all of the state parks and provided new updated maps that mark the trails at Mark Twain Lake and the trails in the state of Missouri.
Another project that the NEMO chapter has helped with is building fish habitats in correlation with the land manager at Mark Twain Lake.
“We went and spent three days cutting pipe to build the fish habitats and took our trailers down and took them to the lake and they sank them later,” Becki said.
Another local member of the NEMO BCHMO chapter is Karen Woodruff. She and her husband, Terry, grew up in Clark County and they have both enjoyed riding for several years. The couple have been on many trail rides; the West being their favorite place to go.
The first time Karen heard about BCHMO was in 2009.
“Becki Krueger mentioned it to me, so I went to a weekend workday,” Karen said.
She decided to join the NEMO group and has enjoyed meeting people over the years.
Since joining the chapter, Karen has seen many improvements completed in multiple areas.
“One of the most serviceable improvements has included a restroom at Frank Russell Campground and at the Spaulding Parking area,” Karen said.
One of Karen’s favorite projects to work on over the years was the archery range.
“Volunteers from several organizations developed an area for an archery range with wooded walk-in standards for youth and adults,” Karen said.
“Becki and I were there with now retired Buck and Blackjack, our trusty steeds. We were there cutting limbs via horseback. Right alongside of us, pole saws and chainsaws were run by many adult volunteers. Boy Scouts volunteered their time also. It was pretty cool to be a part of this.”
One of the unique qualities that Karen loves about BCHMO, is the fact that much of the work is done from a mule or a horse.
“I loved that I’d still be riding, but I could also do much needed work on the trails. It also allowed me to stay out of the poison ivy and yet participate,” Karen said.
One of the great things about the BCHMO is that the volunteers all have different skills that contribute to the group.
“I enjoy the fact that regardless whatever level a member is at, they are still a fundamental part of the greater good,” Karen said.
“We share these trails and parks with others. This is something I can do, and I can do my part so that others in the years to come may benefit also.”
When at the Mark Twain Lake, the group camps at the Frank Russell Recreation Area and they maintain certain areas of the trail on scheduled workdays. After the workday, the next day is designated for trail riding only.
Each year the chapter meets in January to determine when to schedule the workdays for the upcoming year. These workdays typically take place from March to October, depending on the weather.
Besides workdays, the group has also hosted a Youth Day in the past, but in recent years they haven’t had any participation.
“We usually have a guest speaker, we teach them Leave No Trace principles, we learn the emergency dismounts, we check all their tack and equipment to make sure everything is safe,” Becki said.
“We do some first aid and do a special program. One year we did ‘How to meet hikers and bikers on the trail.’”
The youth are then taken on a trail ride, provided lunch, given t-shirts, and given certificates that they completed the course. Participants must be between the ages of 8 and 18 and must be able to ride their horse on their own.
This year the chapter will host their annual membership trail ride for National Public Lands Day on September 24th at the Frank Russell Recreation Area at Mark Twain Lake.
“Anybody that wants to come can come, and we will take them out and show them the trails and explain the work we do,” Becki said.
Becki encourages others to join Back Country Horsemen to help maintain and preserve these public trails for future generations.
“I want to see these trails open so that my kids, and my grandkids and future generations can enjoy these trails. I want to know that we worked hard on not only a state level, but a national level to ensure that the trails are open for everyone to enjoy, whether it be hikers, bikers, equestrians, or bird watchers,” Becki said.
To join the NEMO BCHMO chapter, there is a yearly fee of $40.00 for an individual, $45.00 for a family, and $60.00 for a business.
“Anybody can join, you don’t even have to have a horse to join. Everybody is a valued member, because one person may be good at writing grants, or one person cooks for us when we have a youth day or our training sessions,” Becki said.
“We are always looking for members and there is no age limit. It is a great organization to belong to. We meet wonderful people, we enjoy the evenings together, and make new friends. It’s work, but we also have fun too.”
For more information about workdays, trail rides, or how to become a member, you can check out bchmo.org or contact Becki Krueger at firstname.lastname@example.org or 660-341-7880.