Dillon pushes improved trail system forward with local Boy Scout’s help | SummitDaily.com

Dillon pushes improved trail system forward with local Boy Scout’s help

For one local Boy Scout, the path to the prestigious Eagle award has all been a step-by-step process.

More precisely, it's about each individual pace through Dillon's Nature Preserve in leading a group of peers along a route that Tanner Fox has himself fully measured and mapped out. The soon-to-be junior at Summit High School and Silverthorne resident assumed the community-service project earlier this year as part of the requirements to achieve the distinguished honor. But it's the lessons he's learned during the estimated 150-hour process that he realizes are perhaps even more valuable.

"It's been quite a lot of work," said Fox, of Summit's Troop 188. "And it's a lot of work that you're not used to doing because it's not like schoolwork. Schoolwork is filling in things you already know, but this is actually figuring things out, and the whole leadership thing."

In 1996, through a conservation agreement between landowner Denver Water and Summit County, the town of Dillon acquired management duties over the Nature Preserve, southwest of Dillon Cemetery and northwest of Swan Mountain Road along U.S. Highway 6. Now two decades later, the town is upping the ante in the hopes of providing better access to the three trails there for both visitors and residents.

"I knew we needed to do some work out here," explained Scott O'Brien, Dillon's public works director, "and it was wonderful that Tanner was interested in taking on that project and leading it. The signs needed to be redone. Not all of them were accurate anymore."

The presence of a 200-foot-long social trail — a walkway produced from repeated casual, off-trail use — as well as some other meandering footpaths among the Meadow Trail Loop, Cross Cut Trail and Ridge Trail Loop created the need for a strengthened network with improved markers. In collaboration with the county's Open Space & Trails Department through a trail-building volunteer day, the Meadow Trail extension from the nearby parking lot just off Highway 6 was officialized and upgraded with some switchbacks last week.

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"Out of convenience," said O'Brien, "people park and they're just going up over the hill and then connecting to the Meadow Trail. We decided we wanted to formalize that and make it a little safer."

Dillon will also be adding some ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) spaces in the lot and a small neighboring shelter, in addition to paving a connection from the lot to the county recpath so cyclists can ride right directly to it. Before any of that, however, the new signage goes in for the three hiking trails this weekend because of the efforts of Fox and a handful of other Boy Scouts.

"There's a lot of things you don't think about like little stuff like this," said Fox, who has been involved with Scouts since the second grade. "You go on a hike and you see the signs, but there's a lot of work that goes into every little detail in both urban and rural. It's also really cool because in Boy Scouts everyone's willing to come and help. That's really amazing … just to see people who are so willing to jump forward and do something that isn't really going to help them in any way. It's selfless."

Aside from spearheading the installation of 14 new wooden indicators that should last upwards of a decade before needing to be replaced, Fox also GPS-logged the recreational pathways so the most exact distances could be noted for a statewide initiative direct from Gov. John Hickenlooper's office. The three trails can now be included as part of a future online catalog of Colorado's entire trail system.

Fox hopes to become one of the annual 6 percent of eligible Scouts who attain the Eagle award before the 18th-birthday deadline. What's more, he received a nice exercise in civics by attending several town meetings to receive the necessary approvals. That, and learning how to best uphold the principles of the Boy Scout Handbook.

"It's one thing to read the Scout manual and know all the things it says," said Fox, "but it's another thing to actually apply that and use that as part of your moral set. That's one of the big borders between who gets Eagle and who doesn't."

With any luck, based on the work, the panel who ultimately bestows the award will see the great strides forward, for both Fox and those he's inspired in the town of Dillon.