‘Shiny, happy people’ building trails
Just two weeks after starting, a group of trail builders from the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps have completed a two-plus mile stretch of trail, which is the first part of the new East Eagle Trail System.To show their appreciation, about 30 area residents recently hiked or biked up the new trail to a barbecue at the Youth Corps camp off of the Bureau of Land Management road on Bellyache Ridge.The Youth Corps, which is part of the Colorado Youth Corps Association, comprises young adults from all over the country in an effort to link “community, education and environment through service.”This particular undertaking, part of the East Eagle Public Lands Project, was funded by an $11,000 Colorado State Park’s trails grant. Dorothy Morgan, manager for the Bureau of Land Management’s Glenwood Springs Resource area, applied for the grant last October – and was responsible for some other important things.”I brought them porta-potties and ice cream, both of which they were really happy to have,” said Morgan. Other than that, she said the group was self-sufficient-bringing their own food, water and equipment- and took care of all of the trail-building.
Diverse, happy groupThe nine young adults, ages 16 to 25, who spent the last couple of weeks camping up above Eagle while working on the trail, were from all over the country. Some had never camped before, or even been west of the Mississippi. They hailed from places like Northampton, Mass., New York City, Oxford, Ohio, and Larchmont, N.Y. Some of the kids came from Steamboat Springs, Hayden and Denver.The hard work they had been doing for the past few weeks was evident from their dirt-caked bodies. The normal day for this crew starts at 6 a.m. and goes until at least three or four in the afternoon. The only place to clean up after toiling all day in the hot sun is the Eagle River. The group nonetheless maintained a cheery disposition, and all the guests who showed up to the barbecue were greeted with big smiles.Twenty-seven-year-old Betsy Bowman, the group’s crew leader, said the work ethic and group dynamics that are involved are what make the Youth Corps so valuable to young adults.”It gives people the chance to have a first job – especially with this group. Because they are high school age, it instills a strong work ethic in them,” she said. “You push yourself, and you’re forced to put other people in front of yourself.”Casey Steele, 16, of Steamboat Springs, said the Youth Corps has helped him in a number of ways.”I have a new respect for the planet,” said Steele, who will continue on with the Youth Corps to their next project. “It has given me a better ability to control my temper, which used to be a problem, and I have gained a better work ethic.”Seventeen year-old Joanna Roberts was one of several on the crew who had never been west of the Mississippi. She first found the Youth Corps online. When this project fit into her summer schedule, she jumped at the chance, she said.
“This has been a great experience for me,” said Roberts, who will attend Brown University in the fall. “I have made new friends and got to see the West. I might have never gotten these opportunities without the Youth Corps.”Community thanksEllie Caryl and Leslie Kehmeier of ECO Trails were on hand to congratulate the group. So was Jon Bailey from Vail Resorts, who provided the dinner of brats, burgers and chicken breasts. All of them echoed the same sentiment – one of thanks – when addressing the work this crew had done on Eagle’s newest trail. “This is a big community of bikers down here,” said Bailey, who lives with his wife and three sons in Eagle. “My kids love to ride, and I know this trail is going to get plenty of use.”The trail makes it possible to hike or ride east of town entirely on singletrack. Starting just past the Bluffs housing development, the trail winds its way up beneath the Bureau of Land Management road, occasionally crossing some double-track. It continues on past the youth corps camp site and eventually hooks back in with the singletrack on the north side of the Bureau of Land Management road, which takes you back down to the bottom.”Overall, I was really impressed with their work, skills and attitude,” said Morgan. “They were hard working and fun. They cared about what they were doing and it showed.”The Youth Corps left as quickly as they came. But their contribution to Eagle’s local trail system will be with the town forever. They are now headed to North Park to work on a bridge.
More on the CorpsConservation Corps program enrolls young adults in four- to eight-week sessions, and puts them to work building trails, bridges and fences; maintaining campgrounds and parks; and assisting with flood control on local rivers. While applicants from within the state are given priority, the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, which runs the conservation program, accepts people nationwide. All participants are paid a weekly stipend and are eligible for AmeriCorps Education Awards.”Each applicant completes an application with essays, then goes through an interview and a selection process,” said Avrom Feinberg, program director for Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, who began his started as a crew leader in 1993. “In general, we are a job training program, so we do not hire based on experience. Rather, we hire on enthusiasm for conservation work, environmental education, community service and need,” Feinberg said. Anyone interested in finding out more about the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps can visit their Web site at http://www.rockymountainyouthcorps.org.==========================================