Rebuilding the trail they travel
EAGLES NEST WILDERNESS – The logs weren’t light – especially for the quarter-mile the volunteers carried them.
About 15 men and women from the Friends of the Eagles Nest Wilderness joined U.S. Forest Service Rangers Saturday to rebuild an aged bridge near Lilypad Lake. The lake can be found along the trail that runs below Buffalo Mountain, above the Wildernest neighborhood.
Fifty-four feet of bridge – more than 15 years old – was broken, worn-down, wobbly and a bit unsafe, with nails poking out, said Friends project leader Currie Craven.
“A lot of it just eroded away from all the use,” Craven said. “And with the budget restrictions the rangers’ offices are facing, we’re trying to get as much done with volunteers as we can.”
Lisa Mayhew, an instructor at the Keystone Science School, was one who answered the call. Mayhew brings students into the area for the school’s environmental study programs. She said she felt she owed some work to the trail.
“We use the area, so it seemed only appropriate to help maintain it,” Mayhew said.
Forest rangers began preparing the site two weeks ago. They used hand tools (powered tools aren’t allowed in wilderness areas) to fell, clean and hew trees into logs for bridge sills, stringers and decking.
The rangers used native rocks to level the sills, or supports, for the bridge. Many of the decking logs, however, had to be carried from the trailhead to the bridge area, a quarter-mile away. Some volunteers slung the logs over their shoulders, while teams of others split the load or used wheelbarrows to get the wood into the work area.
“A lot of visitors use this trail,” Craven said. “It’s pretty well traveled. That’s why it’s so important to maintain.”
Many passers-by, out for a Saturday hike, pitched in and grabbed a log to carry. It was a comforting sight for the work-worn forest rangers.
“It helps to have big groups like this,” said Forest Service Ranger Lisa Smith. “The labor’s tough. Our trail crew has been reduced to about a quarter of its size, and the wilderness staff is at about half.”
The agency has suffered budget cutbacks, like most other federal, state and local government departments. Colorado’s summer wildfires also depleted funds.
Craven said it’s a perfect time for Summit citizens to get involved.
“People intrinsically want to help, I think,” he said. “It’s real easy to get involved, too. We have plenty of older people, but I’m really trying to get the younger generation interested.”
For more information about the Friends of the Eagles Nest Wilderness, call Craven at (970) 453-9056.
Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 237 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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