Rio Grande Trail campaign seeks to ‘Connect, Protect, Respect’ in Roaring Fork Valley |

Rio Grande Trail campaign seeks to ‘Connect, Protect, Respect’ in Roaring Fork Valley

Guest commentary

One of the greatest assets of the Roaring Fork Valley is our trail system. These amazing pathways are not only vital routes for alternative commuting, but beloved trails that we recreate on year-round.

It’s impossible not to notice that the number of users is constantly growing. This is a trend we can expect to continue in 2019, not just here in the Roaring Fork Valley but throughout Colorado.

More people out on the trails means more eyes opened to the sheer size and freshness of Colorado, more legs spinning and striding toward healthier lives, fewer cars on the road, and fewer faces buried in electronic screens.

For our most heavily used trails that connect our valley communities, this can be a realization of their true potential. How we conduct ourselves amid this user growth is an incredible opportunity to practice social responsibility.

To that end, those of us who manage the trail system, which includes a coalition of local governments along with the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, have joined together to promote awareness of trail safety and etiquette in a campaign we are calling “Connect, Protect, Respect.”

We want to share some highlights of the public awareness issues we will be promoting over the next few months and invite you to be part of the solution in making our trail systems as vibrant and safe as possible and foster preparedness and respect on and off the pavement.

Each month this year, we will spread the word on a different branch of the overall message of trail safety and etiquette.

This month, the focus is on preparedness.

How to best prepare? Check the weather, dress accordingly, research your route (the PitkinOutside and MTBProject apps are fantastic for this), and bring gear and tools for the unexpected. Be ready for the inevitable flat tire. Keep hydrated — this is especially important at higher elevation. With shorter daylight hours, it’s always a good idea to bring a headlamp along on your journey.

In February, we will share commuting tips and touch on the tools, bike types and clothing that make commuting by trail a success.

March brings the message of trail awareness. Keeping to the right when walking or biking ensures room for those traveling in the opposite direction. And popping one earbud out is the best way to communicate with fellow trail users and for you to be alert to potential hazards. Both tips offer positive ways to get along and share responsibility for safety on the trails.

In April, we will take a look at yielding. There is nuance in knowing that downhill users yield to those climbing, bikes should yield to pedestrians, and both should yield to horses.

For those new to using the trail systems, it is important to know that it is not a free-for-all. How we interact and treat each other is critical to the best experience for all.

To the seasoned trail user, the hope is that these messages will be an opportunity to share your experience and wisdom and help others learn how to enjoy the system.

We want to wish everyone a happy new year and safe and happy trail experiences. Together we can elevate the ethic while having fun.

You can find out more about Connect, Protect, Respect at

This guest commentary was submitted from Brian Long, trails system manager, city of Aspen; Lindsey Utter, Open Space and Trails planning and outreach manager, Pitkin County; Brett Meredith, Trails and corridor manager, Roaring Fork Transportation Authority; and Tanya Allen, transportation manager, city of Glenwood Springs.