Helen Carlsen began with the Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers in 1995 at the nonprofit organization’s first project on the Arbaney-Kittle Trail.
She had heard about the organization from advertisements in the local papers. Pitkin County Open Space and Trails had acquired the property a few years earlier. She helped install water bars to prevent rain from damaging the trail.
Carlsen continued to participate in trail workdays for 10 years. In the spring of 2011, she attended a kickoff party and decided that she could be helpful as an ambassador and coordinated the trail-project days. As an ambassador, she handles all logistics, from registration to picking up the food and beverages. She was elected the ambassador of the year for 2012. In addition to these commitments, Carlsen serves on the project-selection committee.
Carlsen volunteers for Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers because she is a lifelong trail user and appreciates trails that are well-maintained. She believes that contributing to quality of local trails is her way to give back to the community.
When asked about a favorite trail or project, she mentions a project in Rifle, where the Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers have removed tamarisk and Russian olive for many years. These invasive species prevent the willow from thriving and draw water out of the environment. While the project is not trail work in the traditional sense, it is near and dear to Carlsen’s heart.
Before she worked with Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers, she would hike trails and observe the rocks that make up the water bars. It wasn’t until she worked on a trail that she realized how much work was necessary to make one of those. When others asked what she would say to friends and neighbors on the importance of trail maintenance, she would refer to the time she called the office on a Friday afternoon and asked if they still needed volunteers the next morning. The employee responded, “We always need more volunteers.”
Carlsen enjoys hiking, biking and cross-country and backcountry skiing and says she doesn’t have a favorite trail since she enjoys the variety of trail options we have in the valley and beyond.
Carlsen has made a commitment to contributing to the trails she uses for her outdoor activities and wants to encourage people to help in any way they can. All contributions are appreciated, and she says, “If everybody who hiked the trails from Rifle to Aspen contributed just one hour to trail work, we would have 1,000 project days.”