Make Earth Day count, volunteer for trail work |

Make Earth Day count, volunteer for trail work

Scott Condon

Celebrate Earth Day today – help a local trail through rehab.

A nonprofit organization that has taken over the bulk of trail work from cash-strapped federal and local agencies has announced its summer projects and is enlisting volunteers to help undertake the work.

Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers avoids political debates over which trail users cause the most damage or the appropriate level of maintenance. Its goal is to simply bring some muscle to the field when an agency like the U.S. Forest Service determines what trail work is necessary.

“I like the big white hat that we wear,” said David Hamilton, director of RFOV.

The group solicits requests for trail work each year. A selection committee winnows out the request, often visits the trails in question and decides which handful the organization will tackle.

“There are hundreds of miles of trails in the valley so there’s plenty of work out there for us,” Hamilton said.

Similar groups, like the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, have run into criticism for maintaining trails too aggressively. The fourteeners group, for example, was scolded by many hikers for buffing out the trail up La Plata Peak. Elsewhere it has been criticized for building chimney-sized rock cairns that it justified as necessary to mark the route in snow.

Hamilton said RFOV never proposes trail work. It lets the sponsoring agency determine what level of work is necessary, then it follows that mandate.

“Our main goal is to preserve and protect what we’ve got and not change the character of a trail,” he said.

It’s nearly always successful. It helped the Bureau of Land Management and a citizens’ group create the Three Gulches Trail on Red Hill outside of Carbondale. That’s hailed as one of the most fun and challenging mountain biking routes in the valley. Its rerouting of a section of Government Trail was also deemed a success by many bikers.

Occasionally the work the volunteers are directed to do isn’t popular. A project designed to make the South Road into Hunter Creek Valley more ridable for descending bikers, and relieve pressure from a singletrack, was panned and scrapped before it was completed.

Hamilton said the group’s leadership includes dedicated mountain bikers and hikers, so it isn’t skewed in any direction.

The organization works on projects from Aspen to Rifle. It concentrates on trails but also undertakes revegetation efforts.

Last year, for example, it rallied 453 volunteers to help with revegetation on the West Glenwood Springs slopes most affected by the Coal Seam fire the summer before. That was one of six major projects.

This summer it has seven major projects and four smaller efforts on National Trails Day, June 5. Those projects are:

– Rifle Falls State Park Project, Rifle, Saturday, May 1. Volunteers will construct two walk-in campsites and tackle trail priorities.

– Jeanne Golay Trail, Glenwood Springs, Saturday, May 15. Work will be directed at the bottom third of the trail to stop erosion and “provide a safe surface.”

– National Trails Day projects, Saturday, June 5. Trail maintenance and repair will take place at the Colorow Trail in New Castle, the Maroon Lake Trail near Aspen, the trail system in Snowmass Village, and the Arbaney-Kittle Trail in Basalt. Another project will take place Saturday, June 12, on the Boy Scout Trail in Glenwood Springs.

– Marolt Interpretative Trail, Aspen, Saturday, July 10. A new trail will go through the site of an old silver smelter from the 1890s. It will complement a historical museum already located in a barn on the site.

– Independence Ghost Town outside Aspen, Saturday, July 31. Volunteers will establish one sustainable trail system among the ruins and close and revegetate unneeded trails.

– Eagle Lake Trail, 25 miles east of Basalt in the Fryingpan Valley, Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 28-29. Volunteers will backpack into the site to reconstruct and define the Eagle Lake Trail at the gateway to the Holy Cross Wilderness.

– Red Hill Trails, Carbondale, Saturday, Sept. 18. Ongoing work will concentrate on rerouting a trail and improving existing segments in an area where trails are braided.

– Riverside Park Planting Project, Basalt, Saturday, Oct. 2. Volunteers will plant native wetland vegetation, trees and shrubs to stabilize soils and create habitat.

Volunteers on the one-day projects will work from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., then get the chance to chat with fellow workers at a dinner. Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers prefers advance reservations by calling 927-8241 or visiting its Web site at

The organization is looking for crew leaders who can supervise work. Training for leaders will be held Thursday, May 6, and Saturday, May 8.

There are also opportunities to help for people who cannot do the trail work.

Scott Condon’s e-mail address is


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