Vail-area Forest Service district ranger moving to the Front Range
Aaron Mayville credits community support for success on trails, other initiatives
MINTURN — Aaron Mayville knows all too well the problems and challenges the U.S. Forest Service has to deal with, but he believes in the agency’s mission. That makes him something special.
Mayville, the Eagle Holy Cross District Ranger since 2016 — and the deputy for about four years previous to that — announced recently he’s been named the Deputy Forest Supervisor for the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest and the Pawnee National Grasslands, headquartered in Fort Collins. Mayville’s last day on the job is Oct. 18.
Mayville is excited about the move, but called his promotion a little “bittersweet.”
“There’s a handful of things (here) I’m really sad to leave,” Mayville said. “I know it sounds a little weird.”
Not enough time
One of those big projects is an upcoming decision whether to allow a paved road through Forest Service property to provide access to the proposed Berlaimont Estates project near Edwards.
Mayville said he cares “a lot” about the decision. While the fate of the road will be decided from White River National Forest headquarters in Glenwood Springs, much of the work on the proposal was done from the Eagle Holy Cross district.
No matter what decision is issued, Mayville said he believes the issue will be “with us for many years,” citing possible objections or litigation if the road is approved.
Mayville also wishes ideas to consolidate district’s offices in Eagle and Minturn had made more progress.
“We’ve worked on it over the years, but we’re still in two offices,” Mayville said. “It’s OK, but it’s inefficient.”
Along with the consolidation comes the future of the Forest Service office property at Dowd Junction. As opposed to most Forest Service property, which must be exchanged for private land of equivalent value, the Minturn office site can be sold for cash.
All these things take time in the world of federal bureaucracy. Seemingly simple decisions can take years.
The Forest Service is also historically strapped for cash, meaning initiatives have to wait until there’s money available.
So why does Mayville stay?
“The Forest Service has the greatest mission of any federal agency, period,” Mayville said. He can quickly cite the agency’s mission statement which includes sustaining the health, diversity and productivity of federal lands to meet the needs of future generations.
“We directly involve ourselves in the lives of millions of Americans,” Mayville said. That includes international corporations and ranchers who graze livestock on forest land.
“It sounds corny, but I really believe in that mission,” he said.
A supportive community
Mayville said the successes seen in the Eagle Holy Cross district wouldn’t be possible without community support.
The Everkrisp Trail, which opened this summer, was the first new official trail in the area in the past decade. Working with the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance and other local private and government groups, an Adopt a Trail program was created to help maintain and protect local trails.
The Eagle Holy Cross District stretches into Glenwood Canyon, which means Mayville’s office was responsible for creating the plan that has introduced reservations and shuttle buses for those who want to hike to Hanging Lake.
Mayville is proud of that work.
“Some people don’t like it, but a majority do,” Mayville said, citing online reviews in which about 95% of users give the shuttle service five star ratings.
“The goal is to improve the visitor experience, and we’ve done that,” he said.
Managing access to trails is becoming more important on the White River National Forest, which, since it’s home to 12 ski areas, is the country’s most-visited piece of public land.
One of the next trails to see a management plan will probably be the Booth Falls trail that starts in Vail.
Vail Environmental Sustainability Manager Kristen Bertuglia said a plan for Booth Falls is becoming more essential every year.
“It needs management or we’ll love it to death,” Bertuglia said.
But management and other plans need involvement from everyone involved.
Mayville has “been great” at bringing people together, listening to their diverse points of view and working for good solutions, Bertuglia said.
“He can balance a lot of competing issues — he’ll be missed,” she added.
Vail’s a fairly small piece of the Holy Cross district, but Bertuglia said she’s never felt treated like that.
The Forest Service is a stakeholder in Vail’s designation as a “sustainable destination,” and Bertuglia said that cooperation will be needed moving forward.
Ernest Saeger of the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance also praised the local Forest Service staff under Mayville’s leadership.
“We’ve created a great relationship with the Forest Service,” Saeger said.
With everything going on, Mayville said there’s always something different, and usually important, going on.
“What would normally be a career-defining initiative is a Tuesday around here,” he said.
Mayville’s heading straight into many of the same issues he faced in Eagle County: limited budgets, increasing use and any number of user group conflicts.
The difference, he said, is that the Front Range forest district is more used by locals. Thanks to its ski areas, the White River National Forest sees a lot more visitors from around the nation and the world.
Still, he’s looking forward to new challenges. But he’ll miss this place.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the work we’ve done in the last six years,” he said. That includes working with Vail Resorts on projects from the summer Epic Discovery project to new lifts and the 2015 FIS World Alpine Ski Championships, which Mayville called a high point of his time here.
Mayville will miss this place, and he’ll be missed.
“We’re thankful for all the work (Mayville) has done while he was here,” Bertuglia said. “It’s bittersweet. We’re happy for him, but we’ll miss him.”
Prinzhorn launched Grannies in the Bush 17 years ago. It’s now EduTek, a Colorado-based nonprofit.