Tuesday, June 21 marked the first ever Eagle County Trail Adoption Opportunity. The full house event was attended by people curious to learn more about trail adoption, supporters that made the program possible and organizations that wanted to adopt a trail. Long time trail advocate, John Shipp donated appetizers and his Dusty Boot location in Beaver Creek to host the event. A brief presentation was given before the adoptions began. Aaron Mayville, the White River District Ranger, kicked things off by giving a little insight into the Adopt-A-Trail history and creation. The Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District has over 600 miles of trails that have been maintained by only a few trail crew rangers. This is woefully insufficient for the amount of use the trails receive. The trail adoption concept has been successful with USFS districts nationwide, but is new to Eagle County.
In 2015, the USFS was approached by the Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association with hopes of discussing trail expansion on the District. With the struggling conditions of our current trail system, it was clear that the focus needed to be on our existing trails before the discussion of trail expansion could take place. That is how the idea of creating an Adopt-A-Trail program was put into motion.
Jamie Malin and Andy Gunion with the Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association (VVMBA) created a GoFundMe campaign that was a huge success. The VVMBA and the Vail Valley Trail’s Connection, started to reach out to the local community for support. In only 3 short months, they were able to raise $50,000 that allowed for the Adopt-A-Trail program to get rolling this spring. These funds contributed to the hiring of one USFS Ranger, Jeff Thompson, and an Adopt-A-Trail Coordinator, Michelle Wolffe.
Jeff Thompson moved to Leadville, CO to go to school and started working for the Leadville Ranger District on the Pike/ San Isabel National Forest. For the next 7 years he developed trail building skills by working on the Trail Crew and helping manage thirteen 14,000 ft. peaks and 4 Wilderness Areas. In 2005 Jeff took a position on the White River National Forest, Holy Cross Ranger District as Trails Supervisor. In this position Jeff lead many crew on projects, completed many Wilderness and non-Wilderness trail projects and maintained over 600 miles of trail.For the past 19 winter seasons, Jeff has also been working on Beaver Creek Ski Patrol. Thompson said,“It’s so great to see the community give back to our trails. The support has been amazing! I know taking this on is a big commitment but the help we get will go a long way to sustain our trail system.”
Michelle has been living in Eagle County for 18 years and calls this her dream job. Until now, she has been working as a X-ray and MRI technologist. She was proud to say that she was the first ever registered MRI technologist in the Vail Valley. She has worked at Vail Valley Medical Center for 10 years, but then moved on to create and run an MRI department for Weiss Medical Associates for 6 years. Most recently, she has been picking up shifts at Vail Summit Orthopaedics locally while also commuting to Denver to cover shifts with Health Images. She became involved with VVMBA over 3 years ago when she saw them working on the trails at the West Avon Preserve. Michelle said, “I was so excited to see these amazing trails literally being created in my backyard, that I knew I had to get involved.” Since then, she has been an active board member focusing mostly on event planning, but has stepped down so she can focus on the Adopt-A-Trail program.. Michelle concluded, “I believe this program will offer the USFS some much needed assistance and give our community the opportunity to get involved with these great trails!”
The requirements for being eligible to adopt included having at least four dedicated volunteers that would be able to work two days this summer and three days next year. No trail maintenance experience was necessary. In exchange for this two year commitment, a sign with that group’s name on it will appear at the trailhead.
“Some trails have been previously supported by organizations already” said Paula Peterson with the USFS. “For this reason, those trails will continue to be cared for and officially adopted by those same groups.” Those trails include Colorado Trail Foundation’s adoption of The Colorado Trail, Singletree’s adoption of Knob Hill and Mesquite, Eagle-Vail Metro District’s adoption of Eagle-Vail Trail, Walking Mountain’s adoption of Buck Creek, The Kind Bikes and Skis adoption of Berry Creek and Vail Mountain School’s adoption of Booth Falls Trail.
Mike Beach and Jeff Thompson created this year’s list of eligible trails open for adoption. There were 38 trails to choose from, all of which are on USFS land and most of which are found close to home along the I-70 corridor of Eagle County. There was something for everyone.
Groups from all aspects of our community came together to support the trails including health, fitness, construction, real estate, town government, hospitality, bike shops and schools. Then the moment everyone was waiting for had arrived. “Fish” were drawn out of a fish bowl with group’s names on them. When their name was called they were invited to come sign their name to the trail of their choice. Originally it was discussed that only 20 – 25 trails were going to be adopted, but with 29 interested parties, it was hard to slow the enthusiasm in the room. Fifteen minutes later, everyone in attendance had a trail they would be able to put their name on.
“It was a little more than we were planning on adopting this year” said Michelle Wolffe, “but I am thrilled that no one went home empty handed.”
Now that the trails were adopted, each organization was invited to attend one of two training sessions so they could better understand what would be expected from them in this new program. The possible hazards encountered with working outside were covered, so safety was strongly enforced. You have to wear proper personal protective equipment including gloves, eye protection, long pants, sturdy shoes and hard hats when necessary. The required maintenance includes making sure the trail signs are secure, clearing the corridor, removing trash, maintaining a solid outslope, and water bar maintenance. Jeff stressed, “Making sure the water runs across a trail instead of down it, is key.” He will be attending every group’s first trail day to offer support and give more hands on training.
There is a new Facebook group, Adopt A Trail, for anyone who would like to follow along with this new exciting program. You can also keep tabs with AAT on the VVMBA.ORG website. Direct questions will be addressed by Michelle: ecadoptatrail at gmail.com.