EAGLE COUNTY — A reduced budget and limited personnel makes 2.3 million acres of White River National Forest a challenge for the U.S. Forest Service rangers to maintain.
After watching this national trend for the past couple of years and seeing how other areas across the country attempt to cope with it, the Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association hatched the Adopt a Ranger plan to fund two new positions focused on local trails, one of them being a Forest Service job.
“Ideally this is going to keep the trails that get a lot of use in much better shape,” said Bill Hoblitzell, of the local mountain bike association. “Most of the trails people get on are just the evening dog walk, the quick after-work ride, the lunchtime run, the morning coffee walk. They’re close by and take a beating.”
The goal is to help the Forest Service tackle the day-to-day, mundane tasks of trail maintenance.
“In the long term, we’re hoping by shouldering some of this work from the Forest Service that we can help them now tackle some of the big picture ideas that we have for our area,” Hoblitzell said.
“On the one hand, it’s a shame that the Forest Service can’t come up with some this stuff on our own, but on the other hand, it’s a wonderful example of citizen action and people wanting to help.”Aaron MayvilleActing district ranger, Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District
Long-term ideas include trail connectivity, new projects and other ideas to continue to build a trail system that rivals others around the world.
The funding from a GoFundMe website will fill a position inside the Forest Service to deal with trail maintenance, not just mountain bike trails, and a private position to work under that person and learn from them.
“In the future, we’re hoping to phase out that Forest Service part and just have this private coordinator run the program,” Hoblitzell said.
The public that use the trails helped fund the two new positions.
“People really got behind it,” Hoblitzell said. “Eagle-Vail Metropolitan District really kick-started it. They threw out $5,000 off the bat, and I think that caught people’s attention.”
In addition to the Adopt a Ranger program, the Vail Valley Mountain Bike Association is encouraging local groups and businesses to join in the Adopt a Trail program.
Adopt a Trail is a two-year commitment where members of a group or business do basic trail maintenance on a section of trail three times a year. The volunteers become the eyes and ears of the trail as well, in case anything major happens to the trail.
“We really can’t entertain new trail proposals until we can sustainably manage the ones we have,” said Aaron Mayville, acting district ranger for Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District. “And the Adopt a Trail program really gets us there.”
FOREST SERVICE FUNDING
In 2009, the White River National Forest annual budget, handed down from the capital, was $30 million. This year, the budget is $15 million, Mayville said. In 2003, the Forest Service dedicated 16 percent of its $5 billion annual budget to wildfire; this year, 56 percent of that same $5 billion budget is for wildfire.
“On the one hand, it’s a shame that the Forest Service can’t come up with some this stuff on our own,” Mayville said, “but on the other hand, it’s a wonderful example of citizen action and people wanting to help.”
Mayville said the Forest Service has other partnerships, too many to name, that also collaborate with them on projects.
“We’ve been working people longer and more,” he said. “There’s only so much you can do in that way, and that’s why we had to focus externally on some of these partnerships.”
Reporter Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2915 and [email protected] Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.