Last Wednesday, our hiking-with-dogs group parked at the Phases Trailhead parking lot and headed up the Strawberry Road. Hiking with a group of dogs allows the dogs to get to know each other, socialize if you will. It seems to normalize them all and they quickly work out their differences.
At first, we always have some wild moments — even in the parking lot before we got started. Lucy jumped in the car right on Charlie’s lap. She was so excited to see her wild-child friend, Dixie. They jumped all over each other and chased each other, running in circles with Dixie grunting like a pig — as some dogs do. Joey jumped in and chased them both. It was so fun to watch! But boy, do they sleep well after this doggie date.
Meanwhile up Strawberry Road, signs said “road closed” and we soon found out there were dump trucks on the road hauling class C and gravel to the new parking lot at the top of the fishing access trail down to the Colorado River.
The Fraser River Canyon Access Trail had been improved years ago as a National Public Lands Day project and is a great hike down to the river, a perfect destination on a hot day with flowers galore. The new lot had been carefully walled with rocks to more than double the parking area available, and you could take off biking or hiking on the Phased and Confused Trail in the redeveloped Phases Trail System.
We had noticed another lot being created by the crew from Mountain States Snowcats after we entered the Strawberry Road below the end of the Phases trails. This is Headwaters Trail Alliance at work.
For years, HTA has been hard at work for the people of Grand County. More funding for this group from the county, the Open Lands, Rivers and Trails Fund, plus various GOCO and Colorado state trails funds grants is sparking life into a major nonprofit that has the recreation future of our residents and tourists at its heart.
When HTA was able to add a few key people, they developed programs with our love of the outdoors in mind, both economically and for the care of both public and private lands. The relationships that started with National Public Lands Day in the 90s have blossomed through the years into the Grand County Master Trails Plan, the Fraser to Granby Trail, the Adopt-a-Trail program, winter grooming, the Trail Smart Sizing Project, hazard tree mitigation, trailhead improvements and now the Stewardship Ambassador program, just to name a few.
Grants and private funds have been obtained to contract youth corps crews and summer field crews, or for capacity building, and creating and maintaining a sustainable tourism plan. They have been busy pushing their annual budget for the first time over the million-dollar mark. That is a lot of investment in our future.
This takes a lot of writing skill, coordination, volunteers, and pure dedication to Grand County — all in the middle of a pandemic, the second largest fire in state history, avalanches and droughts, and a huge influx of inexperienced people wanting to head for the wilderness.
Hats off to HTA. Grand County is lucky to have you. And to the people who volunteer both time and money, we could not do it without you.
In a couple weeks, Grand County has gone from low fire danger to extremely high fire conditions. Stage 1 Fire restrictions are in effect and violations can result in individual fines up to $5,000 and possible imprisonment.