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The (trail) Torch Is Being Passed...Grab It!

By: MtnMama of UpaDowna.org

A few months ago, I started hearing buzz from our local trail and open space advocacy groups about a new trail that was going to be built. The mountain this trail will be built on has a lot of controversy surrounding it, and has always been known as a "missing link" of sorts. It was a key component to connecting two major recreational areas, Red Rock Canyon Open Space and the Paul Intemann Memorial Nature Trail which ends near the Incline. Now, a few years after the controversy has settled, the Iron Mountain Trail will be built.  It's almost finished to be exact, builders hope to see it done within a week. The Manitou Cats group has been one to lead the charge in making this trail possible. Other groups have also stepped in to help including Friends of the Peak and Medicine Wheel Trail Advocates.

Proposed "Iron Mountain Trail"

Continuing to hear buzz about the Iron Mountain Trail, I noticed they had quite a few work days coming up and, since I've never built a new trail, thought it would be cool to help! Not only is it good to learn about trail building but being one of the first people on a new trail is exciting! Breaking ground on something that hundreds and thousands of people will hike or bike on is a feat to be proud of. I admire the folks that spend so much time maintaining our trails, time which is mostly behind the scenes. Hikers must think there is a "magical trail fairy" that just magically "takes care of the trails". I mean, sure! How else do trails such as the Incline stay in tip top shape (and that's when it was ILLEGAL!) if it wasn't for secret trail fairies? No, contrary to popular belief, there are actual people out there improving, fixing, even building trails for YOU. Now here's the kicker...what if there weren't. That's right, the City can't afford all of that maintenance even if it is considered a "city park" like North Cheyenne Canyon, a friend's group maintains most of the trails. The "Friend's groups" are made up of mostly all volunteers that dedicate a lot of time to meetings, trail building, maintenance and clean up, and they need you.

Pick a tool, any tool! The trails aren't going to build themselves!

Personally, I get great satisfaction just hiking trails. For starters, every trail is different, beautiful and inspiring in it's own way but after helping to clean or maintain a trail...the satisfaction is out of this world! You see the trail in a different light, you learn to value the simple joy a dirt path can bring, you build camaraderie with your trail-building peers and...you get satisfaction in completing a job well done!

It might have been only 30 feet that our crew of 8 got done, but breaking new ground is tough stuff!

Let me get off the soap box to now honestly state that this is only my 3rd time helping maintain or build a trail. After saying that, I feel embarrassed of my lack of help knowing that many of these folks spend 2 hours every-other Wednesday, or every Sunday or heck, almost every DAY working on the trails! This is where the shift needs to happen. It needs to happen with a lot of us, and here's why:

  1. The (trail) torch is being passed. Grab it. Friend's groups and memberships are dwindling and current board members or volunteers are aging. Some groups have had "revivals" such as the Stewards of Stratton Open Space or even forced to close up shop such as the Intemann Trail Comittee. Newsletter lists of these groups reach upwards of 100's of people yet only a handful of them show up to help. It's time younger adults (30's and 40's) start helping more.
  2. It's time we start giving back. How many hours a month do you spend on the trails, in a park or an open space? Now how many hours do you spend volunteering to help maintain those same areas you use? Think of trail volunteering like a car, or a bike. You are using it, so...aren't you going to put in the time and effort to keep it running? Start with a few hours every month to donate.
  3. The trails belong to everyone. Sure, there are tons of friend's groups and mountain bike groups, and city volunteering programs and groups like UpaDowna but you know what? We ALL use the trails. You don't have to "join a club" to help. Take the initiative to check out their sites and join a work day, or even better...become a crew leader.
  4. Do it for the future. I built a trail today that my son can enjoy with his mountain biking or trail running or hiking friends when he's older. Who knows, maybe even my grandkids can enjoy it! I DID THAT. It might have only been 20-30 feet of trail but it felt damn good and you can be damn sure that I'll be back to do it again.

For more info, check out the volunteer calendar on the Trails and Open Space Coalition site. Or, join a Friend's group in the area you utilize the most (click on one below). Can't find yours? Just Google "friends of (enter park name here)" and most likely something will show up! Adventure On!

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