Paige Blankenbuehler
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September 16, 2012
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Volunteers come out for weekend-long project near Keystone

Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado teamed with Friends of the Dillon Ranger District and the U.S. Forest Service to construct a hiking and mountain biking trail in the Soda Creek Trail system near Keystone.

The two-day project began Saturday with 50 volunteers from Summit County and the Front Range and will continue through this afternoon.

The improvements include the construction of a turnpike to protect wetland areas and direct bike traffic.

A turnpike is an elevated path supported by logs and filled with rock and dirt. The 150-foot structure stretches across a section that has been "notoriously muddy for years," said Claudia Wiley, a trail technician for Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado.

"Our volunteers have been doing a great job with creating a focused effort on this trail," said Steve Wall, the seasonal projects manager for Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado. "They've been placing timbers, hauling rock and dirt to the trail - everyone is working really hard to get this project completed."

The Soda Creek mountain bike path will remain open through the construction, which concludes at 2 p.m. today. Mountain bikers are currently being directed around the construction area.

"We have been coming to this area for weeks to prepare for the construction of this work," Wiley said. "We designed this trail to appeal to the recreational uses - a lot of people use this trail for mountain biking so we've made it narrow with wide turns."

The trail is being constructed from the recommendation of the U.S. Forest Service. Creating a prominent, elevated trail should limit the different trails that mountain bikers create and protect the wetland area.

"This trail is elevated and allows water to run through without leaving a muddy trail," said Cindy Ebbert, from the recreation department of the Forest Service. "When areas tend to become very muddy, hikers and mountain bikers will create their own trails and that can be especially damaging to a wetland area."

The trail construction project, though hard work, offered many perks to its 50 volunteers who came from as far as Colorado Springs.

The weekend-long project, began Saturday morning and extend into this afternoon, providing all meals for volunteers as well as live musical entertainment by Randall McKinnon who played guitar for volunteers Saturday night.

"We try to make volunteer projects feasible for completion in a couple of days without strenuous effort because we want people to have a great experience," Wiley said. "Creating a fun environment and providing food and entertainment keeps our volunteer base strong, with many people returning each year."

Alongside the volunteer project, an environmental education program called the Young Stewards is teaching kids age 6-12 about outdoor stewardship.

"The best part of that program is that parents have a safe and educational environment for their children while they do volunteer work," said Andrea Sinor, marketing director for Volunteers of Outdoor Colorado. "At the same time, kids are learning about caring about the wild environment and seeing their parents in action with improvements."

Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado is a nonprofit volunteer organization that works with local entities like Friends of the Dillon Ranger District and the Forest Service to motivate and enable citizens to be active stewards of Colorado's natural resources. The organization organizes projects throughout the year involving hundreds of volunteers.

"Doing this kind of work is such a rush and there's a huge sense of accomplishment," Wiley said. "It's hard to compare being able to work towards improving the environment by building sensible trails while being outside and learning so much."


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The Summit Daily Updated Sep 16, 2012 06:48PM Published Sep 16, 2012 12:15AM Copyright 2012 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.