Adopt-a-trail program ‘a little bit addictive’
EAGLE COUNTY — In February, Andy Gunion was nervous that the Forest Service’s adopt-a-trail program idea wouldn’t get enough support in time to start this summer.
By March, he was feeling better.
“After talking to just a few people it ramped up quickly,” he said. “The generosity in this valley is just incredible.”
On Tuesday, representatives from 24 groups of four showed up at The Dusty Boot in Beaver Creek to adopt 20 trails. The fact that the program’s kick-off meeting attracted more groups than trails available further showcased the support the adopt-a-trail program has within the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District, said program coordinator Michelle Wolffe.
“We need some groups to consolidate so everybody could go home with an adopted trail,” she said.
For Wolffe, a Vail Valley Mountain Biking Association board member and former X-Ray technician, the adopt-a-trail coordinator position is a dream job. She will work with people including Paula Peterson from the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District, who has helped with adopt-a-trail programs in other areas. Peterson said the Vail Valley Mountain Biking Association will act as a funnel organization for the program.
“We thought if we could get one mothership organization and funnel everybody through that, it would really consolidate the efforts on both sides,” Peterson said. “And so (the Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association) stepped up and said ‘we will be your partner.’”
For Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association president Jamie Malin, the program was one more way to chase the dragon.
“It gets a little bit addictive,” said Malin, who has been working on trails since 2004. “Once you get trained and you understand what a sustainable trail looks like, you’re going to have a different eye and you’re going to start saying ‘I need to fix that.’”
Assignments for the 20 trails were issued Tuesday using a lottery system. Beaver Creek resident Michael Dunahay’s group won the lottery and was awarded first choice of the available trails in the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District; Dunahay chose the Grouse Lake trail near Beaver Creek.
“I hike that trail often,” he said. “I’ve been managing the trail unofficially, and just wanted to get some training and keep doing it.”
For the next two years, Dunahay will be an official maintenance worker on the Grouse Lake trail, which means he will receive instruction from the Forest Service on what they call “the do’s and don’t’s” of trail work, including safety training, proper attire and other specific functions of the job. His group will be charged with scheduling at least two work days of three hours each in 2016, and three work days in 2017.
“We’re keeping it focused this year,” said Mike Beach with the Forest Service. “We want to be successful and get off to a good start and gain momentum.”
Beach said by having adopt-a-trail groups such as Dunahay’s taking care of basic trail maintenance — cleaning drainages, maintaining vegetation, picking up trash and checking on signage — it will free up the Forest Service to work on the projects that require more of their technical expertise, like building bridges and turnpikes.
“This really takes a lot of the burden off of our crews to get through these trails,” Beach said. “As a result, the trail system will be improved.”
That, said Malin, is the true goal of the adopt-a-trail program, addictive properties aside.
“The Forest Service’s focus in the past has been working on trails that are most heavily used, which often times means the closest ones to the community,” Malin said. “And as a result some of those iconic backcountry trails are not getting the attention they deserve, because there just isn’t the resources.”
Not only that, “If we don’t take care of the trails we have, we’re never going to get to build new trails,” Malin added.
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