130 Eagle County volunteers log 1,001 hours building Everkrisp hiking and biking trail | VailDaily.com

130 Eagle County volunteers log 1,001 hours building Everkrisp hiking and biking trail

EAGLE COUNTY — Local volunteers celebrated another successful season of work on the new Everkrisp hiking and biking trail between Eagle-Vail and Minturn on Saturday, Oct. 13.

A massive effort, the trail represents the first new trail construction to take place on U.S. Forest Service land in Eagle County in more than a decade. Volunteers got together on Wednesday evenings throughout the summer, logging 1,001 total hours, which were spread across 130 volunteers.

Last year, the Wednesday volunteers worked on the Mini Mile trail in Minturn, with 89 volunteers logging 780 hours.

Trail worker Casey Wyse said after seeing how much work was accomplished on the Mini Mile in 2017, he never thought the 780-hour record would be broken, much less smashed the way it was this summer.

"Last year, the trail we were working on was centrally located and easy to access, so we didn't think we'd be able to expand beyond those numbers, just because it was a very convenient project," Wyse said. "But we ended up blowing it out of the water this year."

LUZAR TAKES THE TOP SPOT

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While Wyse has been the top volunteer over the past few years, in 2018 Mark Luzar overtook him for the top spot.

Luzar ran the mini excavator that cut the new trail, when that excavator wasn't being operated by the Forest Service. Forest Service employee Adam Jorck ran the excavator Monday through Thursday each week; Luzar and Wyse combined for an additional 400 hours of work on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, which weren't included in the Wednesday numbers.

In August, Jorck took a week off to get married. Wyse then used his own work vacation to fill in for Jorck — operating the mini excavator and working on the trail — which created a more than 50-hour week of trail work for Wyse during his vacation.

"The Adopt a Trail program, as well as a team of trail workers from the Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, also helped, so it was just an incredible effort to get this thing done," Wyse said.

TICKET TO RIDE

The trail is not yet open, but an opportunity for mountain bikers to ride the still-incomplete trail might present itself in the coming weeks.

"It's obviously going to be weather contingent; we don't want to open it when it's muddy," Wyse said. "But if it dries out, we would want to do a soft opening where people could ride it, beat it in a bit and pack it down, and then we can find out where the problem areas are and what needs to be addressed first thing next year."

With the excavating portion of the trail work complete, volunteer teams must now shape the remainder of the trail by hand before it is ready. While Saturday's celebration felt like a season finale for trail work on Everkrisp, there may be one or two more sessions taking place before wildlife closures go into effect in late November.

"They'll be random sessions, so just follow the Vail Valley Mountain Biking Association's Facebook page to see when those pop up," Wyse said.

The Everkrisp trail, when complete, will provide an answer to the Whiskey Creek trail, which must be closed as a result of the Forest Service's 2011 Travel Management Plan. Finding an alternative to that trail became a priority among local trail enthusiasts, as Whiskey Creek provided an important connection between Eagle-Vail and Minturn.

The Vail Valley Mountain Biking Association spearheaded the effort. After the organization started up an Adopt a Trail program to take care of the many miles of trail maintenance necessary — and raised enough funds to support the Adopt a Trail program, purchase the mini excavator and fund the Forest Service in finding someone to operate it — the Forest Service agreed to allow the new trail construction.

Celebrating all of that on Saturday, more than 20 volunteers gathered for a work day, followed by a pot luck lunch, with beer provided by Vail Brewing Co. While the Vail Valley Mountain Biking Association expressed its appreciation for the volunteers, the volunteers expressed their appreciation for the beer.

"It was great to have the support of Vail Brewing Co. With this trail being in their backyard, it's a perfect effort for them to get behind," said Ernest Saeger, a board member with the Vail Valley Mountain Biking Association.

WEDNESDAY TRAIL WORK

Every Wednesday evening during the summer and fall, volunteers get together and work on various trails around the county. Here’s the volunteer numbers from those Wednesday sessions over the last four years:

• 2015: 38 volunteers, 637 hours

• 2016: 72 volunteers, 583 hours

• 2017: 89 volunteers, 780 hours

• 2018: 130 volunteers, 1,001 hours

Can’t volunteer? Donations help keep trail work happening in Eagle County. To donate, visit gofundme.com/eagle-county-trail-fund.