Fundraising campaign has been launched for 2017’s Adopt A Trail program | VailDaily.com

Fundraising campaign has been launched for 2017’s Adopt A Trail program

Daily staff report
newsroom@vaildaily.com

EAGLE COUNTY — The local Adopt A Trail team recently met with the U.S. Forest Service to review 2016 accomplishments and to plan for 2017.

Discussion items included the budget, funding and adding new trails to the 29 adopted and maintained in 2016. Forest Service officials agreed to expand the program to 40 trails including non-system trails, which will connect some neighborhood trails to Forest Service trails.

Adopt A Trail provides trail crew leader training, volunteer training and supervision of volunteer crews when working on a trail. The Forest Service leads a one-day class providing volunteers with safety training, tool use and basic trail maintenance skills.

The local program involves citizens in maintaining, upgrading and restoring Forest Service and neighborhood trails used by users from hikers and dog walkers to snowshoers and cross-country skiers.

Adopt A Trail is funded through citizen, corporate, metro district and government donations. The budget for 2017 is $45,536. This funding is used to pay for a seasonal ranger for the Forest Service, a local coordinator, supplies and tools. The Forest Service seasonal ranger provides supervision and guidance every time a volunteer crew is working on a trail. The ranger inspects the trails, determines the work required and make recommendations for improvements.

How we got here

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The Adopt A Trail program originated in 2016 as the result of a meeting between Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association President Jamie Malin and long-time trails advocate Lee Rimel with local Forest Service officials. Malin and Rimel learned that the Forest Service needed an additional ranger to supervise the volunteer teams planning to work multiple days on trails. The local group raised the money to pay for the seasonal position. Donors included individuals, corporations, government, metropolitan districts and nonprofit groups.

The mountain bike association was selected as the fundraising entity because it is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Donations to the group are tax-deductible.

In January of 2016, the mountain bike association set up a GoFundMe site. The group's board of directors, including Andy Gunion, Bill Hoblitzell, Pete Seibert, Kat Sadillo, Brian Rodine, Michelle Wolffe and Mark Luzar started promoting the Adopt A Trail program.

In just three months, more than $50,000 was raised — beyond the original goal — and organizing summer trail work began in earnest.

The funding hired Jeff Thompson as the Forest Service ranger and Michelle Wolffe as the volunteer coordinator. Thompson, along with forest ranger Michael Beach, created a list of trails that would be available for adoption. For a group to Adopt A Trail, it needed to have a minimum of four dedicated volunteers who would commit to work two days in 2016 and three days per year in the future. No trail maintenance experience was required because training would be provided.

At a June adoption lottery at the Dusty Boot in Beaver Creek, groups representing government, hospitality, medicine, retail, real estate, financial, fitness and private organizations adopted 29 trails. The trails adopted included remote wilderness trails and backyard favorites. More than 20 percent of the trails adopted were designated wilderness trails on which biking is prohibited. A week later, the adopting groups attended a training that covered the expectations for the program.

Volunteers' commitment

Each group agreed to a two-year commitment and to following Forest Service protocols. All participants agreed to wear protective equipment including glasses, gloves, long pants, sturdy shoes and hard hats when necessary. The most pressing work required on the trails was trimming the trail corridors back to allow safe passage for users. Existing trail surface drainages were cleaned out and several new ones created. Trailhead signs were evaluated, signs installed and trash removed. Bigger problems were reported to the Forest Service.

A group from CrossFitness Training removed a huge boulder from the Cross Creek Trail. Venture Sports built check dams on Lost Lake Trail. The Singletree Community did extensive restoration on Mesquite Trail and removed barbed wire in which wildlife could become entangled. The town of Minturn helped build a bridge on Game Creek Trail. With more trained volunteers in 2017, more of these advanced trail maintenance projects will be completed.

A good season

Trail surface restoration occurred on the 29 trails, and 64 social trails (short cuts) were restored. Nearly 134 pounds of trash was removed and 88 fallen trees were cleared. Almost 500 drainage structures were cleared and 87 miles of corridor was trimmed back. More than 400 people contributed more than 1,300 working hours. To thank these hard-working organizations, each group received a "Trail Adopted by" plaque with their group's name on it at their trailhead.

The season ended with a celebration at Garfinkel's in Vail. Vail Club 50 was recognized as the group that contributed the most volunteer hours, while Moontime Cyclery cleared the most water drainages. Vail Mountain School and Walking Mountains Science Center tied for most days volunteered.

There will be 40 trails adopted in 2017, 11 of which are new to the program. Wolffe will again be the volunteer coordinator. She can be reached at ecadoptatrail@gmail.com. Wolffe is excited that some of the new trails to be adopted will be community open space trails that will connect with Forest Service trails.

"We look forward to jumping in earlier (this) year." Wolffe said. "With three work days for each group, we hope to start early in the spring, do a second mid-summer and then one in early fall to wrap things up."