Trust Our Land: Responsible recreation during a pandemic
Eagle Valley Land Trust
The recreation cycle from winter to summer and back again is held sacrosanct by Coloradans far and wide. This cycle is being celebrated this week as trails across Eagle County begin their gradual opening for the summer season.
Trail openings mark the perennial changing of the tools: skis to bikes, boots to sandals, beanie to sunhat. Local wildlife partakes as well: deer and elk populations are slowly beginning their transitions from the valleys towards the alpine.
Yet today is in fact quite different. As Eagle County residents adjust to a new reality of life amidst a pandemic, we are left with many questions about what outdoor recreation will look like in the first summer of the decade.
The Eagle Valley Land Trust is committed to forever protecting the lands and open spaces that matter most to our community. This commitment requires balancing the varying needs of our citizens, public health, wildlife, and local economy. Eagle County’s outdoor recreation opportunities, made possible by a wide variety of local organizations, help meet many of these needs.
The necessity for a shared vision and unified voice was the impetus behind the formation of the Eagle Valley Outdoor Stewardship Coalition — a group dedicated to encouraging “safe, fun, responsible and sustainable recreation.” First convened last summer, EVOSC seeks to facilitate collaboration between land and trail managers and outdoor recreation organizations.
These conversations build relationships that can more effectively steward local public lands. The coalition also aims to create uniform messaging and reduce overlap in services. Participating organizations include EVLT, Walking Mountains Science Center, Eagle Valley Outdoor Movement, Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance, Eagle River Watershed Council, Adopt A Trail, Eagle County Open Space, Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, Vail Mountain Rescue, Hardscrabble Trails Coalition, the towns of Vail, Eagle, and Avon, the Bureau of Land Management, the United States Forest Service, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Outdoor recreation is vital to our local economy and community. The EVOSC and Eagle County Public Health have devised consistent guidelines for responsible outdoor recreation during the pandemic as we juggle summer’s return with a stay-at-home order. To recreate during the pandemic safely and responsibly:
Priority No. 1? Everyone’s health
- If you are sick, stay home.
- Obey local, state, and federal orders.
- Keep a safe distance from others.
You can go outside, cautiously
- Groups must be 10 or fewer people, preferably people you live with.
- Consider avoiding busy areas and times of day.
Stay close to home
- The further you travel, the more potential you have to spread illness.
- Stay on familiar trails.
Be safe, eliminate risk
- This is not a good time to get hurt or lost.
- Our health care systems are strained already; first responders and health care workers don’t need additional burdens.
- Activities should be low risk.
Respect closures, be a steward
- Wildlife closures are in place to protect our community’s local wildlife populations. These closures are put in place seasonally to ensure healthy births of deer fawns and elk calves. Respect their space!
- Safety closures are in place to protect first responders and eliminate risk.
- A muddy trail is a closed trail, no matter what.
- Land managers are monitoring changing conditions. Some trail openings, including the West Avon Preserve, have been delayed for wildlife or trail conditions. Please know which trails are open before you go.
The EVOSC is working hard to ensure our transition into the summer months goes as smoothly as possible for our community and wildlife. The coalition welcomes input and participation from all. Any feedback or suggestions can be directed to email@example.com.
This year’s seasonal cycle will be challenging and confusing for all of us. However, if we as a community can hold ourselves accountable and be mindful of our impact, our open spaces and public lands will continue to serve recreationists and wildlife alike, for many cycles to come.
Oliver Skelly is the Eagle Valley Land Trust’s lead community conservation intern. He can be reached at Community@evlt.org. To learn more about EVLT’s local conservation work, visit http://www.evlt.org.