Summit County residents take a hike through nature’s classroom
Longtime Breckenridge resident Sharon Skavlem woke up on Tuesday morning to change into outdoor wear, hiking shoes, sunglasses and a visor. She’d planned for a hike on Straight Creek Trail near Dillon for more than a week.
The recently retired community member gathered with more than a dozen hikers before making her way out onto the dirt path.
The group of outdoor enthusiasts ranged from vacationers to longtime Summit County residents. Each came out for more than just a morning stroll. They came to be part of an interactive series of hikes exploring forest dynamics in Summit County.
Skavlem took part in the educational outdoor activity for the first time last week.
“It was so informative I decided I would come back every time,” she said.
After a short introduction from Colorado State University’s natural resources extension agent Dan Schroder, the hikers began to ascend the path.
Straight Creek Trail is, in many ways, similar to others in Summit County. It’s path meanders at a slight incline among spruce and pine. It’s situated next to a rolling stream, and the landscape is dotted with downed logs, vibrant foliage and colorful wildflowers.
But the path is also sandwiched between two important modern day infrastructures — the Town of Dillon’s drinking water collection facilities and Interstate 70. This makes the area a good example of a wildland-urban interface, Schroder told his students on Tuesday.
A wildland-urban interface is the area between forests and developed structures. In Summit County, these areas are managed to help prevent and control wildfires, Schroder said.
“Humans have left suburbia and urban environments and have found beautiful places like Summit County to live in, but we have moved into a place where fire is prevalent,” he said. “We can’t expect fire not to exist, but we can do things about it.”
Hikers learned how the Town of Dillon, the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Forest Health Task Force have been working together to protect the Straight Creek environment and nearby infrastructure from the threat of a wildfire. Schroder incorporated other information into his outdoor presentation as well — including tidbits of local history, wildlife and environmental issues threatening the health of the forest in Summit County.
“The best way I could think of to share this kind of information was by getting people out in the woods,” Schroder said. “So I chose to use nature’s classroom for this series.”
Schroder has been leading his “students” on hikes throughout Summit County, and will continue to do so throughout the summer. He chose each trails for its ability to illustrate important issues facing forests in Summit County — as well as for their ease of access and ability, Schroder said.
“I want this to be available for everybody from little kids to senior citizens,” he said.
Newly retired Breckenridge resident Skavlem said she appreciate the opportunity to learn about her environment from a local expert at no-cost.
“Learning about forest health is really important. It helps us to become smarter about what we need to do for our future generations,” she said. “I would sure hate to see this all gone.”
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