Friends of the Dillon Ranger District celebrates 10th anniversary with new membership launch |

Friends of the Dillon Ranger District celebrates 10th anniversary with new membership launch

Children transplant lodgepole pine trees on the Frisco Peninsula. Every summer, kids from the Front Range volunteer with Friends of the Dillon Ranger District for a day or two through the Youth Education Professional program.
Courtesy Friends of the Dillon Ranger District |


National Trails Day, June 6 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the Frisco Peninsula

Adopt-a Trail with Copper Mountain Resorts, July 10 at Shrine Mountain Trail near Vail Pass

Wildlands Restoration Volunteers weekend project, August 1-2 at Black Powder Pass

Fish-Shocking Day, August 30

Watershed Restoration Day, September 13

National Public Lands Day, September 26 at Tenderfoot Mountain

From planting trees and patrolling trails to encouraging an environmental ethic and educating about river restoration, the work of the Friends of the Dillon Ranger District touches nearly every aspect of the Summit County landscape and benefits everyone who enjoys it.

The nonprofit partner of Summit’s U.S. Forest Service district works to ensure that the local national forest lands visited by millions every year aren’t negatively impacted by their popularity.

This summer, the nonprofit is launching a new membership program to coincide with its 10th anniversary. A celebration of the occasion will be held at the Silverthorne Pavilion on Thursday, May 28, featuring live music, food and a cash bar.

The nonprofit’s executive director, Mike Connolly, said he will “walk down the memory trail” of FDRD’s history, lay out the organization’s summer plans and officially roll out the membership program.

He designed the program to incentivize both local residents and non-residents to support FDRD while also benefitting from member-exclusive deals at businesses around the county.

“Mike is doing a great job pulling community members together,” said Julie Chandler, director of marketing and development for the National Reperory Orchestra, one of the participating businesses.


Before, an FDRD membership cost $30 and simply gave members the satisfaction of knowing they were contributing to the group’s efforts.

Now FDRD is offering a $50 annual membership that comes with a benefits card that says the member’s name and the card’s expiration month. Students will pay $30 if they present a valid student ID, and families can receive member cards for all immediate family members for $65.

Whenever the card is presented at a participating business, the cardholder can receive the current deal or discount offered by the business. Members can recognize businesses by FDRD sponsor stickers in their windows and check which deals they are offering through FDRD’s website.

Connolly said he expects to have nearly 50 businesses signed up by the 10th anniversary party. Local businesses already participating include restaurants, retail stores and providers of entertainment, sporting goods, household and business services.

At The North Face store in Breckenridge, manager Debra Roche said she couldn’t think of a similar membership program in Summit.

“We really think it’s a great cause and are excited to team up with them,” she said.

The store’s current deal for FDRD cardholders is 40 percent off on winter apparel and 10 percent off on new items.

At The Next Page in Frisco, cardholders can receive a 10 percent discount on Summit County books, trail guides and maps. Karen Berg, owner of the bookstore and tea shop, said the partnership was a simple decision.

“We believe in FDRD,” she said. “I’m inspired by the work they do and the hundreds of volunteers that are out there working to keep us out on our trails.”

Anthony Benz, marketing and tourism manager with the Outlets at Silverthorne, said the Outlets partnered with FDRD because the organization keeps the trails nice, the tourists happy and the locals involved.

Members also will receive a 25 percent discount on FDRD merchandise as well as access to member-only education hikes throughout the summer, with topics including wildflowers, mushrooms, geology and mining.

Businesses can change their deals, and new participating businesses and deals will be featured in FDRD’s free monthly newsletter, which currently reaches about 2,500 subscribers.

Small local businesses also can buy their employees memberships for a discounted group price, Connolly said, which he is setting on a case-by-case basis depending on the number of employees.

“These businesses can basically give another benefit to their employees,” he said, “and it doesn’t cost them a lot and it helps us increase our memberships.”

Tom Fellner, CEO and co-owner of the Frisco-based digital marketing agency Imagine That, said he chose to partner as a business sponsor as well as buy memberships for the company’s six employees.

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” he said.


Since 2005, FDRD’s volunteers have worked on about 85 miles of trails and improved more than 450 acres of forest and watershed land.

The organization is one of the nation’s most active locally-based outdoor stewardship organizations and was recognized as the Forest Service’s Volunteer Program of the Year in 2010.

The nonprofit now has 65 summer projects, about 60 ranger patrollers, more than 750 active volunteers and numerous long-term partnerships and educational opportunities including the Ski With A Ranger tours on the slopes.

Close to a third of FDRD’s volunteers last summer were under age 18, Connolly said, and interest in the ranger patrol program has never been higher.

In 2014, almost 60 volunteers patrolled nearly 1,100 miles of Summit County trails — or roughly the distance from Frisco to San Francisco — educating national forest trail users.

The nonprofit’s forest monitoring program has also grown, nearly quadrupling in the last couple of years.

The citizen-scientist program allows interested community members to measure regrowth, density and species-variety in a specific stand of their choosing that may or may not have been recently cut or thinned by the Forest Service. The data collected is then passed to the foresters.

Connolly said FDRD can leverage its volunteers to accomplish in one day what would take two weeks or longer for the Forest Service.

He said he hopes the program will enlarge FDRD’s pool of potential volunteers for trail maintenance and construction projects as well as other forest-related activities. Members who don’t end up volunteering their time and physical labor will still help the nonprofit become more financially sustainable and expand its operations.

FDRD’s budget for 2015 is $250,000, and the majority of that comes from grants through the National Forest Foundation’s Ski Conservation Fund and Summit Fund.

For more information about Friends of the Dillon Ranger District, visit or contact FDRD staff at (970) 262-3449.

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