Popular Grottos is targeted for a little TLC from volunteers | AspenTimes.com

Popular Grottos is targeted for a little TLC from volunteers

A popular but overrun place called the Grottos is due for a little relief this summer.

The U.S. Forest Service and Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers are teaming this Saturday on a project designed to define the primary trail and prevent people from trampling the entire area.

The Grottos – the natural feature, not the restaurant in town – is about eight miles east of Aspen on Independence Pass. It’s one of the coolest attractions for tourists and locals because of ice formations that survive year-round in caves.

The Grottos is also popular because the Roaring Fork River runs through huge boulder fields there, and it also forms some tranquil pools. Hikers go right next to the river, and they also use a short section of the historic stage coach road.

It’s a popular place for locals to take visitors to get them adjusted to the altitude “without killing them,” noted David Hamilton, director of the nonprofit Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers.

The problem is the primary path isn’t easy to define in some areas. People wandering through the site have created numerous social paths. Sensitive vegetation has been obliterated.

RFOV has adopted the Grottos as one of its major projects this summer. Work was planned in conjunction with the Aspen Ranger District of the Forest Service.

Hamilton said volunteers will make the main trail easier to follow by using rock and wood in places where it isn’t clearly defined. It is only about one-third of a mile long.

They will also close social trails that aren’t necessary. Instead of just piling downed timber to try to prevent use, the volunteers will undertake true restoration by filling the social trails in with rock and soil. The social trails will be blocked at intersections with the primary trail so they are less inviting, Hamilton said.

The organization needs more volunteer helpers to pull off the job. Registration will be held on-site from 8:30 to 9 a.m. Saturday. Pastries and juice will be provided in the morning.

Volunteers will be divided into crews of six or seven workers who will be assigned to a crew boss. Each crew boss will have a special assignment as part of the project.

Volunteers will work until 4 p.m. Dinner will be provided by RFOV through the generosity of Aspen restaurants.

Workers should bring a sack lunch as well as hiking boots, gloves, sun screen and the usual outdoor supplies.

Hamilton said a pre-registration telephone call is requested but not required. Anyone who plans to help should call 927-8241.

RFOV touts its projects as a great way to give back to nature and to meet people with similar interests. A restoration of the Maroon Creek wetlands area attracted more than 60 volunteers earlier this summer. Hamilton hopes a similar number of Aspen-area residents will help at the Grottos.

[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com]

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