Vail Valley trail stewardship group starts season with new name, executive director | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley trail stewardship group starts season with new name, executive director

Volunteers with the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance gather on the Everkrisp trail between Eagle-Vail and Minturn on Oct. 13. Volunteers logged more than 1,000 hours of trail work on Everkrisp during the summer and fall of 2018.
Hailee Rustad | Special to the Daily

It’s true that the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance could probably use a few full-time employees, but it’s going to start with just one.

Ernest Saeger

Newly-hired Executive Director Ernest Saeger hit the ground running on Wednesday, his first day on the job, discussing the full docket of trails activity the group will manage over the coming months.

Trails in open space areas in the town of Avon and the town of Eagle open next week — assuming they’re not too muddy to ride — and a robust Adopt-A-Trail program, which performs maintenance activities on many of those trails, is just one of the many groups the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance oversees.

Saeger was a longtime volunteer before becoming the executive director.

“The programs we’re managing, the grants we’re receiving, have grown exponentially over the last few years,” Saeger said. “It’s always been the goal to get to this point, but the Adopt A Trail program, for example, is just one of the programs we oversee and has grown from 30 trails to 40 trails, to 46, to 50 trails and now it has expanded to include a trail ambassador program to help with education on trail closures and how to respect wildlife.”

Soft-surface specialists

Formerly called the Vail Valley Mountain Biking Association, group president Jamie Malin said the growth of the group prompted the name change.

“On 20 percent of the trails we manage in the Adopt A Trail program, mountain bikes aren’t even allowed,” Malin said. “We wanted to communicate what we’re more about, which is soft-surface trails in general.”

Saeger said the many volunteers the group attracts probably won’t be surprised to hear about the name change.

“Trails are for everyone,” Saeger said. “Whether it’s biking or running or dog walking, a lot of people love to go out on the trails. And they’re a big economic driver, as well, for all the visitors that we have coming to the valley.”

One of the group’s main goals was something few thought was possible — new trail construction on US Forest Service land.

After the Forest Service closed the popular Whiskey Creek trail which helped connect Eagle-Vail and Minturn (cutting through sections of non-Forest Service land, making management difficult), the group sprung to action, asking what it would take to reroute a trail through Forest Service land only, allowing the valley to remain connected through an Eagle-Vail to Minturn nexus.

Forest Service officials said first someone would have to relieve them of their normal trail maintenance responsibilities, which had fallen behind due to a lack of resources.

The Adopt a Trail program was formed, and that hurdle was cleared.

Next, a $26,000 mini excavator, along with a full-time operator of that machine, would be required to get a new trail built in that area.

Funds were raised, the machine was purchased, and a new position was created to run the mini excavator.

Trail construction began last summer, and a grand opening of the new trail — known as Everkrisp — is expected to occur in the coming months.

“We hope to have it open in early July,” Saeger said. “We’re going to try to have a big party.”

Upcoming events

That party is just one of the many events Saeger will help organize through his new role, which will be as much an event planner position as a political figurehead at council meetings and other gatherings where trails are being discussed.

Volunteers work on the new Everkrisp trail between Eagle-Vail and Minturn in October. Volunteer numbers on the trail during 2018 were the highest the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance has seen in the four years the group has been tallying volunteer figures.
Hailee Rustad | Special to the Daily

Currently, Saeger is planning an annual spring kickoff party for May 7 at the Vail Brewing Company.

After that, a “FunDuro” race on June 1 as part of the Eagle Outside festival will raise money for trail work this summer and also introduce people to the discipline of mountain biking known as “Enduro,” which has grown in popularity in recent years.

The Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado will collaborate with the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance on June 29 and 30 in a final push to get the Everkrisp trail ready; anyone wanting to help work on that trail is encouraged to join that group at https://www.voc.org/project/everkrisp-trail-construction-minturn.

The Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance will also kick off its regular Wednesday night trail work sessions in May, where a revolving cast of local trail enthusiasts puts their talents to work with hand trail construction efforts — this year the main priority will be the Everkrisp trail until it’s ride ready.

“We’re hoping, through this role, I’ll be able to help everyone take on these already successful programs and push them even further,” Saeger said.



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