Forest Service and volunteers clear Knight Ridge Trail | SkyHiNews.com

Forest Service and volunteers clear Knight Ridge Trail

Courtesy of U.S. Forest Service

GRANBY – The entire 6-mile length of Knight Ridge Trail, from the Roaring Fork Campground at Arapaho Bay to the Rocky Mountain National Park boundary near Twin Creek, has been cleared of nearly 800 downed trees through a joint effort by the U.S. Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Conversancy Conservation Corps, Headwaters Trails Alliance and Grand County Wilderness Group.

The trail had been impassible since 2011 when a microburst leveled almost all the standing dead trees across the ridge, making the trail impassible for nearly four years. More than 80 percent of the trees in the area had been killed by the mountain pine beetle epidemic that swept through the area a decade ago.

Because a 4-mile section of Knight Ridge Trail runs through Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, approximately 720 trees had to be cleared using a crosscut saw. Wilderness regulations prohibit the use of motorized or mechanized equipment in wilderness. An additional 75 trees were removed earlier this summer from the 2-mile section of the trail that lies outside the wilderness area using chainsaws.

A total of nine forest service employees, six conservation corps crew members and nine volunteers from Grand County Wilderness Group and Headwaters Trails Alliance helped complete the job, working seven 10-hour days over a two-week period. All told, 795 trees have been removed from the trail, providing clear passage for hikers and horseback riders from Arapaho Bay to Shadow Mountain Dam.

"This has been a priority project for the Grand County Wilderness Group for many years," said Bob Saint, president of the group. "We were grateful to be included in this monumental effort."

During the project, a thunderstorm barreled through the area with 50 mph winds, blowing down 30 new trees on a section of trail that had been cleared the day before. Crews cleared these newly fallen trees from the trail, though the possibility still exists for other trees to fall in the future.

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"Just because the trail was clear last week does not mean it will be completely clear when folks come to visit," said recreation planner Miles Miller, who oversaw implementation of the project for the Forest Service. "There are still standing dead trees, which are always a hazard, particularly in a strong wind. That being said, the trail is currently in the best condition it has been in more than 10 years. The views are stellar, and it is truly a wonderful hike."

For tips on recreating safely in an environment with hazardous trees, visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/goto/arp/hazardtrees.

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