Young volunteers clear Vail trails
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado –Many of us use the well packed and maintained biking or hiking trails on Vail Mountain.
But what may seem like a low-cost and lasting source of entertainment and lifestyle for some, creates a mountain of work for Vail’s Signs and Closures crew, and the horde of feverish little helpers that the Youth Conservation Corps brought to the mountain on Wednesday.
The corps brings kids age 11 to 18 into the woods to help with projects for which the Forest Service is understaffed, said Jennifer Rose, program coordinator for the Youth Conservation Corps.
The corps uses money from a National Forest Foundation grant to pay organized groups, such as sports teams and clubs, to help with the projects, she said.
Groups use the outdoor work as a fundraiser for events, uniforms, travel costs, and the like.
“It really gives youth a sense of accomplishment to work on conservation projects and makes them realize how much hard work goes into forest management,” she said.
In return, the forest service gets the help it needs and areas, like Vail Mountain, get a bunch of quick maintenance, she said.
Every year when the snow melts on Vail Mountain, it’s time to get summer trails prepped again, said Jack Hansen, trail maintenance lead for the crew.
“It takes probably the first month that we’re out to get all our trails open. That includes putting out the proper signage, any kind of water maintenance, and any type of dead fall that’s gone onto the trail,” he said.
After the mountain opens to folks in shorts and T-shirts, the crew still has some big maintenance days after storms and bicycle races. Otherwise they check each trail at least once a week. That’s a lot of work for Hansen’s 12 man crew.
“Volunteer days like this are really invaluable,” he said on Wednesday, as he watched the Eagle Valley High School cross-country team hack at a trail with McCloud digging tools – a giant combination between a hoe and a rake that looks like something fit for a gladiator.
“It’s fun, I’m laughing and having a good time working on the trail,” said team member James Jagger. “It makes me appreciate what the people do to the trails that I run on.”
Teammate Wade Fowler mentioned that a rototiller might be a useful investment.
Hansen’s crew also relies on bikers to volunteer for trail maintenance throughout the summer, and they are usually eager to help, he said.
“The downhillers actually give us a call fairly often to ask when we’re going to have a volunteer day again,” he said.
Hansen said the crew is excited about and committed to downhill riding on the mountain. They have been working with the Forest Service to get things rolling opening new trails, and re-opening the 94 downhill trail, which has been closed this season, he said.
For more information on Vail Mountain trail maintenance call Jack Hansen at 970-331-4122. He said there will be a volunteer day for bikers in the next week or two.
For information on volunteering a group for the Youth Conservation Corps, call Jennifer Rose at 970-328-3712.
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