Paige Blankenbuehler
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October 30, 2012
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A season of volunteer effort in review

Summit County is home to 415 miles of trail origins alone, making organizations like Friends of the Dillon Ranger District instrumental in preserving recreation lands and open space.

This was the biggest season yet for the volunteer organization, which put together more than 70 projects in the county, adding up to just more than 8,000 volunteer hours contributed.

With weather becoming too much of a variable to complete trail maintenance projects, FDRD's volunteer season wrapped up in October. During the active months of June, July and August, the organization broke records for volunteer hours donated by teaming with several local and regional volunteer and nonprofit programs.

"It's very rewarding, it's that instant gratification that it comes from," said Sarah Slaton, project coordinator for FDRD. "Now that the season is over, all of our volunteers that worked so hard throughout the summer and fall can go out and see the changes they helped orchestrate."

The uncovered grounds remained snow free the better part of October, presenting the opportunity to complete projects ranging from litter pick up, weed pulling, outreach, education, watershed monitoring to trail restoration.

FDRD collaborated with several organizations during the summer/fall 2012 season including the Keystone Science School, the Colorado State University extension office and Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, with approximately 750 volunteers - most volunteering locally while several traveled from the Front Range, according to Slaton.

The volunteer of the year was Eric Peterson for his diverse commitment to several of the season's projects. He was given special recognition for his service in a watershed monitoring program in the Greenland's Reserve Land Trust.

"He participated in some really difficult projects, he came to trail projects, youth projects - he helped in so many different ways," Slaton said.

The end of the season marked the release of an updated Dillon recreation guide, a trail photo guide offered by the U.S. Forest Service created by volunteers - this year, FDRD took the lead on updating the project.

"If someone has never been on a trail before, this guide is really helpful because they can see photographs of trailheads, junctions and alternative routes," Slaton said.

A restoration project on Georgia Pass topped the list of highlights, Slaton said.

"There's one kid that sticks out in my mind," Slaton said. "He came out to the youth coordinator and said super seriously 'best day ever.' All day he worked really hard and he was so excited, I think it's important to help install the value of our environment into the youth."

Standing out among the various projects organized by FDRD, the ranger patrol volunteers exceeded the goals set for the program last season.

The volunteers for this branch of FDRD programming are trained in early June for public outreach extending through October. They are a volunteer group of 40 men and women who go out and volunteer wearing the Forest Service uniform and talk with members of the public recreating in the county.

Year after year, several volunteer rangers return to participate in the program to share knowledge of the area and available trails, native plants and environmental etiquette. This season, the rangers set an unprecedented achievement through their volunteer efforts, according to Slaton.

During the June-through-October volunteer season, 187 hikes were completed by rangers totaling 1,012 miles patrolled. FDRD organizers set a goal of reaching 800 volunteer hours through the ranger program and the 40 volunteers well surpassed a goal they once thought was unachievable.

"I challenged my ranger patrollers to complete 800 hours and they didn't think they could do it," Slaton said. "But they ended up with 938 hours, it was amazing. It just shows the level of local commitment and how valuable our community considers our environment to be."


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The Summit Daily Updated Oct 31, 2012 05:18PM Published Oct 30, 2012 10:38PM Copyright 2012 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.