New trail will connect Eagle-Vail to Minturn on Forest Service land, volunteers needed
Local volunteers have formed productive relationships and learned a lot about trail construction and team management in the past few years.
And if they’re going to finish the new Everkrisp trail by the time the snow flies, then they’re going to need all of the help they can get.
When the Whiskey Creek trail that connects Minturn to Eagle-Vail closed to mountain bikers in 2011, the Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association and other local stakeholders set out to find an alternative to the route. A plan was hatched to build a new trail on Forest Service land, avoiding the state land where complications had arisen to prompt the trail’s closure to bikes.
The local ranger district said the plan looked great, but they couldn’t take on any new trails, given the shape the district’s 120 miles of existing trails were in. Rangers were too far behind on day-to-day maintenance of existing trails to even think about adding anything new.
An adopt-a-trail program was launched, attracting hundreds of volunteers and funds were raised to create a new position at the Forest Service to manage the plan. With that program now on its third year, the Forest Service has given the go-ahead to the new trail around the former Whiskey Creek connection. They’re calling it Everkrisp.
Forest Service approval of the Everkrisp route was just one small step toward actually creating the trail, however. With a steep slope and about 800 feet of elevation gain, it was not going to be an easy trail to construct.
Funds were raised through private donations and local entities such as the Eagle-Vail Property Owners Association and the town of Minturn, and enough money was eventually collected to fund the purchase of a mini excavator and a Forest Service employee to run the machine.
“This trail would not be possible by hand,” local volunteer Casey Wyse said. “It’s just on too steep of an angle, too steep of a rise, with the backslope and things, that it would take us four years just to get where we are right now.”
Currently, Wyse and the Forest Service have cut about 400 vertical feet of the 800 that the trail will climb. They started as soon as wildlife closures would allow, on June 20.
A team of sawyers at the Forest Service have cut through the scores of dead lodgepole trees blocking the trail’s proposed route. A forest service employee has been spending 40 hours per week running the mini excavator, and when he’s not working, Wyse and local volunteer Mark Luzar are commanding the machine.
“We got a nice trial by fire coming up the steepest part of the trail,” Wyse said. “But we’re getting better and better every day.”
The mini excavator cuts the trail, and local volunteers with the Vail Valley Mountain Biking Association follow behind and shape it by hand. They meet every Wednesday at 5 p.m. at the Stone Creek trailhead off Eagle Drive in Eagle-Vail and work until dusk.
Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association president Jamie Malin said more volunteers are definitely welcome and needed at this point.
“Right now, we’re a quarter-mile up the trail, and the mini X is three-quarters of a mile up the trail,” Malin said. “The volunteers are losing ground. It’s a race — we’re John Henry, and the steam engine is winning right now.”
Help is on the way through Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, which has organized a work session for Saturday, Aug. 25, and Sunday, Aug. 26.
“They’re going to be very, very helpful,” Wyse said. “They come well supported, well supplied, they provide lunch, they provide dinner, beers and they also bring a bunch of additional tools and things.”
Between 200 and 300 volunteers are expected to help through Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, and more are welcome to join.
“What gets done and their level of organization is unprecedented,” Wyse said.
To join in the Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado work day, sign up at voc.org.
“The more volunteers we get, the quicker this trail will become available,” Malin said.