Spoke Talk: Trail fund offers another way to give back | SteamboatToday.com

Spoke Talk: Trail fund offers another way to give back

Tamera Manzanares For Steamboat Today

It was my summer of hard labor. Taking a break from college waitressing, I took up a Pulaski and joined an AmeriCorps trail crew. We cut new trails through open space near Fort Collins, built water bars on trails in Rawah Wilderness Area and pieced together stone pathways in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Now days, my hardest work is on a bike, riding trails in Routt County. Sometimes, when my tires flow over a smooth section of newly minted trail, I reminisce about having a shovel in hand and feeling good about giving back.

For now, I'm supporting — and encouraging others to support — those who do the tough work, by donating to the Trail Maintenance Endowment Fund. Created in 2015, it ensures non-motorized trails in Routt and Moffat counties are safe and accessible to users forever. The goal is big — $1 million to $1.5 million in the next 10 years — but easily attainable if all users contribute. Now is a great time to join the effort. Contributions from new donors through Oct. 15 will be matched up to $5,000.

The Trail Maintenance Endowment Fund is led by a board that includes federal, state and city land managers and residents who determine trail maintenance priorities and projects annually based on need.

Kent Foster, a recreation specialist with the U.S. Forest Service, said the fund and assistance from volunteer organizations including Routt County Riders, Friends of Wilderness and Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, is vital to helping government agencies keep trails sustainable.

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"As the public identifies new trails, the fund allows us to increase our capacity to maintain them. If we didn't have this type of funding support, we would be stretching ourselves thin."

Trail maintenance involves controlling erosion on trails and keeping them clear of safety hazards. Trees weak from the mountain pine beetle epidemic pose a major challenge. In some areas, 300 to 400 trees will fall across 1 mile of trail during the course of a year, Foster said.

Installing wayfinding signs at trail junctures and keeping trailheads in good condition with adequate parking, information, interpretive signs and — in highly used areas — bathrooms, also improves trail accessibly and user experience.

"To me, the fund is an investment in the community and our healthy lifestyle here," Foster said. "This money stays in Routt and Moffat counties. It's a way to make sure we make sure our trails will always be maintained and improved."

To donate to the Trail Maintenance Endowment Fund, visit yvcf.org/trails. For more information about the fund, contact Helen Beall at 970-879-8632.

Tamera Manzanares is a volunteer on the Trail Maintenance Endowment Fund marketing committee. She can be reached at tameramanza@gmail.com.