As trail use surges, so does volunteer interest in maintaining a healthy landscape – The Aspen Times


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It’s no secret that trail use and visits to the outdoors in general soared during the pandemic. Fortunately, interest in maintaining trails has kept pace, at least in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteer logged about 6,400 volunteer hours in 2021, more than double from 2020. It wasn’t merely due to easing of COVID-19 restrictions.
“We had more new residents to the valley (sign up for work) than we ever did before,” said Jacob Baker, RFOV’s communications and outreach director.
The nonprofit organization continues to seek new ways to get people engaged. One tool is to broaden the net to draw in a bigger pool of volunteers.
“There is a stereotype still pervasive of who can do trail work outdoors,” Baker said.
One way it is trying to dismantle the stereotype is arranging “family-friendly” projects and events where child care is available so parents can get their hands dirty. The lineup of projects this summer and fall also is sprinkled with restoration work, which differs from traditional trail maintenance.
“Not everyone is interested in heavy, sweaty trail work,” Baker said.
RFOV is entering its 27th year with some twists for the season. The organization is best known for training crew leaders and harnessing volunteers to work under the leaders’ guidance. This year, RFOV will maintain that model but it also has its first-ever dedicated trails crew via funding the U.S. Forest Service secured through the Great American Outdoors Act. The crew will work alone as well as prepare sites for later efforts undertaken by supervised volunteers. The dedicated trails crew will undertake more arduous projects in remote areas.
“The idea there is they are out there all day, every day,” Baker said.
The crew and occasionally a handful of volunteers worked on the Thomas Lakes trail in the shadow of Mount Sopris from May 30 to June 3. They reinstalled aspen logs to repair timber stairs, installed rocks and built and maintained drainage work to create a more sustainable section of trail below the lakes. They put in an estimated 150 hours on the project.
Much of the crew’s work will be in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness as well as in Glenwood Canyon.
RFOV also has its usual full menu of volunteer projects this year. Volunteers will have ample opportunities to participate in projects designed to create sustainable recreation through trail maintenance, restoration to promote healthy landscapes and fire adaptation in pre- and post-fire areas.
Trail work includes everything from one-day efforts to weekend endeavors. An example of the one-day work is a new directional route that will be built in the popular Sky Mountain Park between Aspen and Snowmass Village.
In a weekend immersion project, backpackers will be enlisted to hike into Capitol Creek Valley for a weekend of work.
The restoration projects will feature a 100-tree planting at Lazy Glen and reseeding at Rifle Gap. RFOV also plans to beef up its presence in the Crystal River Valley with work in Marble and Redstone.
In its ongoing effort to boost wildfire resiliency in the area, RFOV held another project in the Lake Christine Fire burn scar this year. As part of that effort, roughly 40 volunteers reseeded an old road above the Basalt shooting range to create a firebreak.
The goal of the various projects, Baker said, is reflected in RFOV’s 2022 theme: “Making our shared outdoors into common ground.”
Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers has something for everyone among its projects this summer. The calendar can be found at https://www.rfov.org/calendar. The group asks that volunteers register more than 24 hours in advance of a project.
scondon@aspentimes.com

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Trail use soared during the pandemic. Fortunately, interest in trail work and other outdoor projects also soared last year for Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers. The nonprofit organization has plans to keep the momentum going in 2022.





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