Wilderness ranger program seeking volunteers in Eagle, Summit Counties | VailDaily.com

Wilderness ranger program seeking volunteers in Eagle, Summit Counties

Maryann Gaug and Carol Burlingame cut thistle from a hiking path in East Vail. Burlingame said the Forest Service relies on volunteers like Gaug to maintain trails around the county.
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The remote wilderness trails of Eagle and Summit Counties are wild and pristine, but some human activity is helpful in keeping them that way.

It’s an important job, but also one that’s too vast to rely on the paid professionals at the U.S. Forest Service.

The Eagle Summit Wilderness Alliance helps fill the gap by maintaining a network of volunteers who man trailhead stations and patrol the trails, reminding users of rules and etiquette, answering questions and guiding wayward hikers in the right direction.

That network is in need of new volunteers. A training day has been set up for June 3 in Silverthorne from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Eagle’s Nest HOA Center on Golden Eagle Road. The deadline for registration is May 19.

Michael Browning with the Eagle Summit Wilderness Alliance says volunteers get a chance to help out on trails in their area, but also have the opportunity to learn about new trails in neighboring areas.

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“They get trained so they’re good representatives of the forest service … telling people the why behind forest service regulations — off-leash dogs, camping too close to lakes, fires — how those things impact the wilderness,” Browning said.

Last year, 110 different volunteer wilderness rangers provided more than 400 patrols over 2,000 hours.

“We interacted with over 10,000 day users and 900 overnight users, and had 190 fire safety conversations,” Browning said.

Volunteers are issued an official U.S. Forest Service volunteer shirt with a Forest Service patch.

“They go out and help educate people on the trail, the trail conditions, or provide a resource to people who go out and don’t know the trail,” Browning said. “They promote leave-no-trace principles and report trail conditions.”

There are two different types of volunteers — some are stationary at a table at the trailhead, while others are on the trail patrolling — and volunteers can do either job.

“We ask people to do at least four patrols per year,” Browning said. “The program trains both patrollers who hike and trailhead hosts.”

The training is free, but the Eagle Summit Wilderness Alliance asks volunteers to become members at a minimal cost to defray expenses. To sign up, visit eaglesummitwilderness.org/volunteer-wilderness-rangers.

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