Trail stewardship program proposed
“In winter the dog poop on the trails is a big issue,” she says. “I counted over 100 piles of poop in the spring. It smells horrible, looks terrible and it’s like walking on land mines. It’s upsetting how people degrade our valley.”
Jensen’s taking the issue a step beyond just expressing her frustration, organizing a trail stewardship group to take care of the trails that are heavily used. The idea is as simple as deciding that responsibility for taking care of your backyard rests with you. In Vail and elsewhere in Eagle County, the concept encompasses lots of public land.
“When you go for a run, take a trash bag with you,” she says.
For the U.S. Forest Service, it’s welcome news.
“We’re always looking for folks to help us with trail work,” says Beth Boyst, wilderness specialist with the Forest Service. “We use volunteers in a variety of ways to augment paid crews to get trail work done.”
The informal proposal dovetails with a program of installing Doggie Doo plastic bag stations at popular trailheads in Vail.
“We just got tired of our parks crews having to clean up trailheads,” says Larry Pardee of the Vail Public Works Department. “When we started fixing up trailheads, requests started coming in. We put up a sign and (waste) station and the calls came in. People thanked us. I just wish people would pitch in and take responsibility for pets.”
The issue goes well beyond aesthetics. Dog waste, which carries diseases that can affect humans, pollutes surface water supplies, many of which are used as raw domestic water sources.
Jensen has begun planning with the local Trail’s Action Group, or TAG, started five years ago to keep trails facing closure because of heavy use and abused by mountain bikes, says its director, Dawes Wilson. The concept has now broadened to encompass multi-use trails.
“The trails stewards program is a way for more constant monitoring of trails and minor maintenance and cleanup,” Wilson says. “Rather than have a bunch of individuals come together and work on one trail, we can recruit individuals to take one trail they use a lot. This trail stewards program is a way for more constant monitoring of trails that need minor maintenance and cleanup.”
Stewards will report problems with trails to the Forest Service.
“Most of the trails were created by homesteaders,” says Boyst. “They go straight up drainages.”
That creates plenty of trails maintenance issues for the Forest Service. There are 2,100 miles of trails in the 2.3-million-acre White River National Forest. That’s far more than 12-person crews can keep up with, Forest Service officials say.
The Forest Service uses volunteers whenever possible. Two weeks ago a 200-person crew from Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado rehabilitated worked on two miles of the Shrine Mountain trail.
“This land belongs to the public and the public needs to take better care of it,” Wilson said.
Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555 ext 450 or firstname.lastname@example.org.