Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado seek volunteers for Tenderfoot Mountain trail project | SummitDaily.com

Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado seek volunteers for Tenderfoot Mountain trail project

Jessica Smith
jsmith@summitdaily.com

Many people don't think much about the origins of the hundreds of miles of trails around Summit County that they hike and bike each summer. Those trails see traffic into the thousands, but they didn't just appear out of nowhere. They were painstakingly planned and plotted before being carefully constructed and custom-made for public use.

And while all the planning was done by experts in the field, a lot of the actual construction was done by volunteers.

In fact, there are many opportunities throughout the year for nature-lovers to have a hand in creating the trails that offer them expansive views and glimpses of the natural beauty and tranquility of the wilderness.

Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado is seeking volunteers for this weekend — August 15 and 16 — to help create a section of trail on Tenderfoot Mountain just outside of Dillon.

A FULL OUTDOOR EXPERIENCE

Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado have been mixing outdoor experiences with volunteer work since 1984. Hundreds of projects span the various outdoor settings within the state, with time commitments ranging from a single afternoon to a week. In 2014, the organization's website reported 35,000 volunteer hours recorded.

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This weekend's project on Tenderfoot Mountain is a two-day overnight affair. Volunteers arrive in the morning on Saturday, then work until about 3 p.m. with a break for lunch. Campsites will be provided at Windy Point camping area in Dillon, which is about a 10-minute drive from the project site.

Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado will provide food throughout the weekend. All the volunteers need to provide is their own camping equipment and their willingness to work.

"It's our way of thanking people for coming out, making it a more enjoyable experience," said VOC project and operations manager Steve Wall.

Working just one day is an option as well.

"We would love people to come for the whole weekend, but if they can only make it for one day, they can sign up for one single day," he said, adding that Sunday tends to have fewer volunteers and would be a helpful time to come.

WHAT TO EXPECT

Volunteers will be placed in crews of eight to 10 people, with a crew leader in charge. While the minimum age for a project is 16, no particular skill set is required of volunteers.

Crew leaders are volunteers who have been through VOC training and have knowledge of proper trail construction techniques.

"They'll take people through tool safety, they'll tell them the exact specification of the trails we build, and they'll be there to teach people exactly how to build the trail they're working on," Wall said.

Each project differs in difficulty. The Tenderfoot project is "moderate," according to Wall, featuring a mild 5-minute hike and work in an area that's not too steep.

THE TRAIL ITSELF

The goal of this weekend's project is to build a new section of trail that will connect Straight Creek Road with Frey Gulch Road. The volunteers will work on roughly half a mile's worth of trail, which will eventually turn into a 5-mile long connection.

That trail, in turn, will act as part of the Tenderfoot Mountain Motorcycle Trail System — 21 miles of trail that will be open to hikers, bikers and motorcycle riders — which is projected for completion in 2017.

"This has been in the planning for about six, almost seven years now," said Ken Waugh, district recreation staff officer for the U.S. Forest Service. "We identified this area because it had a bunch of motorcycle use in the past, but most of the trails here were user-created, unsustainable, too steep."

These steep unofficial trails cause water run-off during rain and snow-melt, which then erodes into a rut, he said. They become unusable, so users ride right beside them, causing another rut and more erosion. This is known as trail "braiding" and results in the degradation not only of the trail but of the environment of the surrounding area.

The trails being built by the Forest Service and VOC volunteers are specifically planned to prevent this kind of thing. Knowing that motorcycles will be using this trail system has also affected their layout.

"We're designing it, so (motorcycles) have to go slow, putting in lots of turns, roots and rocks," said Waugh, "forcing them to slow down and make it longer. … We've designed the new trail system to be much less steep, and so this will give those hikers and mountain bikers a good trail system as well."

He said that volunteers working on the trail this weekend will be able to enjoy scenic views and spend time in beautiful natural surroundings, such as aspen stands.

"If you haven't made plans (this weekend), please sign up. We can use your help," he said.

THE SOCIAL ASPECT

Wall has worked with VOC for almost four years and said one of his favorite parts of the job is interacting with the volunteers, whether they're on their first or fiftieth project.

"It's kind of cool to see those new people, but then to see them throughout the season on different projects and really getting involved and really getting excited about it," he said. "I think that's one of the biggest draws is people coming back and really finding a sense of community; that's really important. Our organization has been around just over 30 years and we've had people that have been with the organization from the very beginning. There's some great friendships that have come out of it."

Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado

What: Volunteers needed for building a sustainable trail section near Dillon

Date: Saturday and Sunday, August 15-16

Time: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Register: Volunteers are asked to register in advance to ensure adequate quantities of tools, supplies, and food. Register via the Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado volunteer project calendar at http://www.voc.org/volunteer or call (303) 715-1010.

More info: Visit http://www.voc.org

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