Tinker with Tenderfoot’s trails | VailDaily.com

Tinker with Tenderfoot’s trails

David L'Heureux
Special to the DailyMembers of The Rocky Mountain Youth Corps helped the Bureau of Land Management close illegal trails downvalley.

GYPSUM – The Bureau of Land Management is continuing to close unauthorized trails and mark open ones in the Tenderfoot Gulch area. This time, they’ve called in some help. Dorothy Morgan, outdoor recreation planner for the Bureau of Land Management in Glenwood Springs, enlisted the services of the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps to help begin a long rehabilitation process for the area.”The main goal here was to eliminate social-user trails,” Youth Corps crew leader Casey Bradley said. “We were particularly concerned with the hill climb trails, which cause the worst erosion.”Earlier this month, a group of 10 young adults – part of the Steamboat Springs-based organization’s Conservation Corps – from various parts of the country started the rehab work in Tenderfoot.

Tenderfoot is the portion of Hardscrabble to the south and west of the Eagle Airport. The hillsides surrounding the area are severely scarred as a result 20 years of unchecked motor vehicle travel.The Youth Corps’ closed unauthorized trails, using signs and dead timber, and opened other trails. They also dug climate holes and check bars to slow water run-off and encourage seedlings to grow.Bradley explained that a “social-user trail” is one that is unauthorized, but still gets ridden because people either don’t know its closed or don’t care. Often, these trails will be hill climbs that go straight up the side of the mountain.”This is a lot worse than I was expecting,” said Elizabeth Carpenter, a 17-year-old high school student from Greensboro, N.C. “It’s such a beautiful area, it’s sad to see it so chewed up.”

‘Spreading knowledge’The fragile nature of the soil in that area compounds the problem. The ground is covered with a crypto-biotic crust that can be irreparably damaged by just a single user.Repairing that damage is where the Youth Corps comes in. Gypsum-resident Jimmy Copple, a hiker and horse-back rider, who lives next to Tenderfoot Gulch, has seen first-hand the harm done to that area in recent years, he said. “They did a lot of manual labor and hard work up there,” said Copple, who helped the crew find their way around. “They made a lot of drastic improvements back there in about 2 1/2 days.”

The kids in the group working on Tenderfoot ranged in age from 16 to 25. While they are paid for their work, the conditions are tough. But that only makes the job more rewarding, said Patrick Bohn, a youth corps mentor. “I really like being in the group setting, doing the hard work and being outside,” said Bohn, a 17-year-old from Madison, Wis. “Just about every aspect of it is something I like. It’s my first time to Colorado, and it is really amazing.”Fellow corps mentor, Miriam Binger, heard about the group from her cousin. After doing some research, the senior at Alma College in Michigan decided to join.”It’s been a great experience,” said Binger. “When you walk through here, you can see the damage. … We are just trying to spread some knowledge with the signs and closures.”Copple noted that despite all their hard work and the hot conditions, the kids were “always smiling.”

“They seem to enjoy the work they do, he added.This is Morgan’s second project with the Youth Corps. It’s a “win-win” situation for the Bureau of Land Management and the young adults involved, she said.”I see them getting valuable job experience and learning a lot about environmental issues,” said Morgan. “They could just as easily have gotten a typical summer job. But they chose this, which is something they can proud of.”Vail, Colorado

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