Local students reflect on trail building program
BRECKENRIDGE—Crews have been hard at work for the last couple weeks constructing a new trail in Breckenridge, hoping to improve connectivity between neighborhoods in town.
But the trail crew looks a little different than usual. Instead of Friends of Breckenridge Trails or the town’s Open Space and Trails Department, this project is being left to the kids. Over the last two weeks a group of 11 Summit County High School students (or soon to be) have been hauling rocks and pouring dirt for a new trail between the Wellington neighborhood south to Baldy Road, part of a Rocky Mountain Youth Corps project.
“I met a lot of long-term friends last year, so I really wanted to come back out, help build trails, go camping and meet some new people,” said Izzy Watters, who’s about to enter the 11th grade and is in her second year with the program. “I’ve met so many amazing new friends, and we’ve gotten so much stuff done. It’s really cool to see the final product at the end of the two weeks.”
Tony Overlock, open space and trails specialist with Breckenridge, said the Redpig Trail would connect the Wellington Trail to the north with the Barney Ford Trail to the south, bringing together the two neighborhoods. Overlock said the partnership with the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps has been going on for a couple years now, and is meant to provide the participants with some real life workforce experience, and teach them about stewardship in their communities. The students appreciate the opportunity.
“I was excited this year because it’s right in my backyard,” said Ian Hans, a 10th grader. “I think it’s awesome doing work on something that could be here for 100 years, and just working for the community and getting people out here to hike. I love nature, and sharing that with other people is a really cool thing.”
“When you build a trail you’re not just building it for yourself, but for the people around you,” added Ben Giesen, a 10th grader. “You’re allowing other people to experience the outdoors, and I think that’s a really great thing.”
“My friend told me about it, and it sounded like a good time,” said Chad Babet, a 10th grader. “It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been a lot of fun.”
The work is far from easy, however. Once complete, the project will feature about 3,000 feet of new trail. In just a short period, the youth corps has completed more than 500 feet.
In reflecting on the experience, the students didn’t seem to mind the grind.
“You really get to learn a lot about yourself while working with other people,” said Emilia Floresgomez, a 10th grader. “Not only that, it’s really nice to work out in nature and up in the mountains, and get your feet dirty.”
“It’s really satisfying to look back at it, and be able to say it’s something we all worked together to build,” said Rena Singleton, a 10th grader.
For some, the program is also good practice for students who’ve set their sights on potential careers in the great outdoors.
“I’ve always enjoyed the outdoors,” said Kaelin Love, a 10th grader. “It’s always been a career I’ve been interested in, being a forest ranger or something like that. So it’s really fun to have this experience, and just to get to be outdoors for the entirety of two weeks is really fun too.”
While the ultimate goal is the creation of the trail, and helping the area’s youth learn about what it means to be a good steward in the community, there is also a large social aspect to the program. Kids show up for eight hours a day to work during the first week, but get to spend the entire second week camping out with new friends.
Many of the students lauded the experience because of the friends they made in the process.
“It’s kind of nerve-wracking coming in not knowing many people,” said Pelham Wagenseil, a ninth grader. “But since we’ve been together for two weeks we feel like we’re part of each other’s lives now.”
“We’re making plans to hang out later in the summer,” said Sadie Schroder, an 11th grader. “It’s cool to find new people in our community that we didn’t know before who are interested in the same things as us.”
“Even after a hard day of work, it’s great to go back to camp where everyone feels like they belong,” said Chloe Shingles, a 10th grader. “After just two weeks to have built such good bonds is really special.”
The Rocky Mountain Youth Corps’ last day was on Friday. Over the rest of the summer Friends of Breckenridge Trails, Higher Ground Earthworks and Summit County Open Space will join the town of Breckenridge in a communitywide effort to have the project ready for next summer.
Once finished, Overlock said it would serve as a multi-use trail for hiking, biking, snowshoeing and even cross-country skiing — and for the kids that got the chance to work on it, a lifelong reminder of their efforts.
“It was fun meeting different kinds of people, talking and making a trail almost as a family,” said Anthony Saenz, a ninth grader. “It’s nice, because after we’re done we can come back here and say we did this. We made this as a community.”
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