Forest Service volunteer group marks 12th birthday with new initiatives | SummitDaily.com

Forest Service volunteer group marks 12th birthday with new initiatives

Friends of the Dillon Ranger District tackled 62 fild projects with more than 30 volunteer groups in the summer of 2016. With several new initiatives for 2017, this volunteer season stands to reach even greater milestones.

Another summer is nearly here and the Friends of the Dillon Ranger District is prepping for its 12th year of organizing volunteer work on Summit County's forestlands.

During this cycle, the nonprofit founded in 2005 will surpass $2 million in value from the number of hours invested into trail and other stewardship projects, on top of a handful of other milestones. To celebrate, and set sights on the new season, FDRD hosts its free annual kick-off party this Wednesday night, May 31, at the Silverthorne Pavilion. All are welcome.

At the event, FDRD's staff of four will speak about several fresh initiatives for the summer, as well as highlight the successes of its recent winter programming. The organization recently brought on former seasonal project coordinator Jill Bryant in a full-time youth and education programs manager position in an attempt to bulk up its children's opportunities and encourage additional family involvement.

To accomplish that, FDRD has a few projects in store. It begins with the unveiling of Family Trail Day on Saturday, June 24, in partnership with the Keystone Science School and local Girl Scouts troop.

The half-day morning event is being branded as a hands-on activity for the whole family, where adults participate in trail work at the Baker's Tank Trail off Boreas Pass in Breckenridge while kids, ages 6-12, engage in educational activities. The whole day is capped off with an afternoon barbecue as a reward for the efforts. Sign-up is required ahead of time and can be completed online.

"We're just trying to get more people aware of what we're doing," said Doozie Martin, the organization's program manager. "By and large we just want to make these opportunities available to everybody. It's been kind of a goal of ours, and we want to try and represent every population we have in Summit County."

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As part of that, starting this August in collaboration with the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps, FDRD is introducing a pilot program for 10 area teens between 14-16 to be paid for a two-week assignment while also learning about careers in natural resource management. The first week entails a regular 9-5 schedule of trail projects and working with others groups such as the High Country Conservation Center and the local horse sanctuary, and the second week will encompass five days of camping out to work on team building and understanding what Youth Corps is all about.

"It's a great training opportunity," said Bryant. "It's a great way for kids to kind of get a feel for what's out there in terms of natural resources jobs, and it'll give the kids insights into what they're doing and job opportunities with that."

Applications for the competitive program are available now and can also be accessed online. That will remain open until all 10 slots are filled.

This season, Summit's forest volunteer agency is also partnering for the first time on the inaugural "Find Your Fourteener" campaign to help prevent significant trail degradation on the state's popular 14,000-foot peaks. FDRD typically invests a weekend day each year into work on Quandary Peak near Breckenridge, but as part of this initiative will coordinate four Saturdays for volunteers to partake in maintaining one of the most highly trafficked Front Range high-alpine hikes.

The project commences on June 17, followed by one day the next three months, on July 22, Aug. 22 and then finally Sept. 16. Most of the work will be completed below tree line along the trail and the group is looking for between 10 and 15 volunteers for each Saturday. Once more, advance commitment is requested online.

Finally, FDRD is in search of additional participants for its largest volunteer event of the year in the annual Bacon and Bourbon Festival in Keystone, June 24 and 25. In exchange for a portion of the proceeds from the event toward general operational needs, the nonprofit organizes event volunteers and needs 70 total for four-hour shifts each, and there are two slots to fill each day. Sign-up is available online.

Emily Bruyn, FDRD's new office and volunteer manager, is heading that project, as well assisting with fundraising and social media management moving forward. Her role is to create increased outreach to segments of the community — especially younger and underrepresented groups — that are less familiar with the nonprofit's role with the forest, to offer them more chances to be involved.

"There's a large slice of our population here in Summit County that we aren't able to represent, especially in the 20s and 30s crowd," said Martin. "That's basically the goal, to just to have everybody — or as many people in the community as we can — know about what we're doing, and then for those who are interested in helping out, to be able to have opportunities for them to come out and give back to their community also."

For more information on FDRD visit: fdrd.org, or call 970-262-3449.

Friends of the Dillon Ranger District Kick-off Party:

Wednesday, May 31, 6-8 p.m.

Silverthorne Pavilion

400 Blue River Pkwy.

Open to the public, and light refreshments will be served