Meet Marcia Gilles, the new Eagle/Holy Cross Deputy District Ranger
EAGLE COUNTY — New Deputy District Ranger Marcia Gilles said she likes working with people.
“That’s good, because we have a few of those,” said District Ranger Aaron Mayville, who held the job before her.
The White River National Forest sees 13 million visitors every year. That’s more than any other division of the U.S. National Forest system. Within the White River is the Eagle and Holy Cross Ranger District, one of the few districts where rangers such as Mayville have an assistant or deputy ranger.
“It’s not a very common position throughout the agency, and that speaks to the volume of work and complexity of some of the projects that we have around here,” Mayville said.
The Eagle and Holy Cross Ranger District deals with not only masses of recreational users, but commercial groups, family ranches and more.
With all of those people come many relationships between the district and the groups who use it and those relationships require special attention in management. It’s a skill that will serve Gilles well in her new position, which she started in early 2017.
“I think her skill set is a real good fit for this district and all the things that we have going on here,” Mayville said.
‘LOVING IT TO DEATH’
On Friday, Gilles met with different groups who will help with the management of one of the busiest areas of the White River National Forest, the Hanging Lake Trail. This summer, the Hanging Lake Trail will be fully open and is expected to see 1,000 or more hikers on an average day. The Eagle and Holy Cross Ranger District is bracing itself for all of that use.
“Heavy use, loving it to death, is definitely one of the challenges that White River National Forest faces,” Gilles said. “It brings a number of issues beyond parking: resource damage issues, litter, sanitation, graffiti, people walking out on the log at the lake. The things that bring people together can quickly create destruction to the place that we all know and love. It’s a gem to our communities, so we’ll be on site this summer and working to solve these issues.”
Before working on Hanging Lake, Gilles was helping Eagle County ranchers install riparian area fence lines.
“That was a great opportunity to be out there where people are,” Gilles said. “Talking to people about their struggles and their stories that they have, their amazing histories with their family connections here.”
Gilles has also talked to dozens of people about the proposed expansion of Golden Peak, as the comments period overlapped with one of her five months on the job.
“As a multiple-use agency, we have to look at our forest management holistically,” she said. “That includes recreation use, providing clean air and water to the public, range management, timber management, all those components that make up a healthy forest. Being able to look at all of that in a holistic manner is exciting for me in this position, it gets me above and beyond what my career focus has been with recreation management.”
Gilles spent the past decade in the Dixie National Forest in Southern Utah before moving here in January. Most of her career has been spent in recreation management; throughout the past few years, she specialized in public affairs.
She worked in Rocky Mountain National Park before moving to Utah and met her husband in Estes Park, where the two were doing environmental education work at YMCA of the Rockies.
“It was wonderful, we spent weeks hiking 14ers and exploring all over Colorado,” she said.
They were married in Colorado and, now raising two sons ages 8 and 10, have been looking to get back here. They now live in Avon and their children attend Homestake Peak School.
For Gilles, the outdoor lifestyle here is similar to what she experienced as a child.
“I was lucky to grow up in a family where we were always outdoors recreating — camping, hiking and spending lots of time outdoors — and from there, I think I just developed that love of the natural landscape,” she said. “Families spending time together outdoors is a bonding experience, a way to connect to each other in a way that you’re not going to connect on a day-to-day basis.”
Mindful of the Forest Service’s new motto, “It’s all yours,” Gilles said she has noticed residents here care for national lands such as they do their own backyards.
“So far, I have just been really amazed how this community has come together to help the Forest Service,” she said. “The people that we are serving here have an appreciation, which has been kind of overwhelming.”