Mike Pritchard is volunteer of the month for Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers | AspenTimes.com

Mike Pritchard is volunteer of the month for Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers

Chris Kelly
Special to The Aspen Times

Mike Pritchard (right), of Roaring Fork Volunteers, works on the Airline Trail construction project on July 20.

Most of the trails that Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers helps maintain, improve and build each year are multi-use trails that accommodate hikers, bikers and equestrians. Volunteers from many different user groups and interests come together on projects to give back to the Roaring Fork Valley's trails and public lands.

An outstanding example of a volunteer from the mountain-bike community is Mike Pritchard, who puts about 50 miles on his knobby tires every week. He began volunteering with Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers in the summer of 2001 and is the nonprofit's volunteer of the month for September, with seven projects under his belt in 2013 alone.

Pritchard, who moved to the valley in 1999 from New Jersey, joined the Aspen Cycling Club and started volunteering on its adopt-a-trail projects, working on the Sunnyside and Government trails.

"As it's all about the points when you're racing with the ACC (members can earn competitive race points for trail work), I came out for the ACC's volunteer work days that continue to be organized by RFOV," Pritchard said.

It was through the Aspen Cycling Club that he became involved in Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers projects, becoming a crew leader about five years ago.

Pritchard is as passionate about trail maintenance as he is about cycling.

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"It's become clear to me that our local trails need love and attention to maintain their high-quality condition," he said. "This is even more true as funding for federal lands diminishes further each year. As an East Coast transplant, I value our trail systems and the experiences the trails offer all of us for exploring public lands."

Pritchard credits Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers with not only maintaining trails but in some cases saving them.

"Without RFOV, many trails would have fallen by the wayside over the years, perhaps deteriorating to the point of abandonment. RFOV's work ensures that locals and visitors have a quality experience on the trail, making them come back for more. In my opinion, the more people using our trails, the better."

His favorite work-project experience was building a climbing turn on Tootsie Roll Trail above Smuggler in Aspen.

"Patience was wearing thin, as it seemed we were accomplishing so little that day, but now that turn rides really well and will for years to come," he said.

But his favorite trail is Sunnyside, where there are many options for climbing up to the top of the trail through the Hunter Creek area. As Pritchard notes, the trail provides incredible views of the upper valley and the Elk Mountains, super smooth, fast and flowing sections and just enough really difficult sections to make riding the trail a challenge every time out.

"Spending time improving a short section of trail makes you appreciate the hard work done in the past to create the trail in the first place. It's incredibly rewarding to work a section of trail for just a few hours and know that it will bring you, your friends and total strangers a great trail experience for seasons to come," he said.

Based in Basalt, Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers is dedicated to promoting volunteer stewardship of public lands by completing trail work and other long-lasting conservation projects. Now in its 18th season of public projects, the organization has helped land managers and other organizations create and maintain dozens of trails and natural areas from Aspen to Rifle.

For more information, visit http://www.rfov.org, email rfov@ sopris.net or call 970-927-8241.

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