Grand County students, forest benefit during Adopt-aTrail outing |

Grand County students, forest benefit during Adopt-aTrail outing

Lawrence Norman
Grand County Center 4 Excellence

Courtesy photo

This summer has been hard on many families in Grand County.

Parents are working extra hours to keep up with the spiraling cost of living. The cost of child care or youth programs means a number of families are relying on older siblings to care for the younger ones.

The teens are restless and looking for things to do. The cost of food, gas, and provisions has many families staying home instead of enjoying this outdoor bounty of “God’s Country” here in our own backyard.

Enter Gary McGraw. He is the coordinator for the Sulphur Ranger District’s “Adopt-A-Trail” program. About three years ago he took on this position after a successful career for many years as the vice president of operations for Winter Park Resort.

A few weeks ago I contacted Gary to see if there were any opportunities to get some of our youth out into the fresh air for some constructive, fun and relaxing activity. I had worked with Gary last year through the Boy Scouts and I was hoping to re-connect.

Gary was happy to comply. He offered a day of work to our group in exchange for overnight camping. The spot we had was nothing short of perfect. You could hear the Roaring Fork falls right behind you.

When we got there on Friday, Gary patiently worked with our group to explain safety procedures and why it is important for people to help maintain the forests. We spent a good chunk of the morning walking the trail, learning about the effects of seasonal runoff, and just enjoying the great outdoors. The work (task) seemed effortless. When we returned to camp, Gary and I sat for a minute as he shared with me the opportunities offered through giving service.

Gary explained that only 46 of 151 trails in his district have been adopted. The wonderful thing is that these trails can be found in areas such as Grand Lake, Fraser, and Winter Park. The close proximity of these trails to our communities offers tremendous opportunities for local families and organizations to participate in affordable recreation and service.

Ironically few if any of the organizations that have adopted these trails are designed around youth programming. However, there have been numerous youth organizations to offer their services for specific one-time projects.

A great example is when Timberline Lodge recently sponsored a church youth group from Minnesota to come and work on the Idlewild Trail. This is great for the short-term.

Gary is also looking at the needs for long-term maintenance of his district’s public wilderness trails. He says there is a tremendous need for trained basic and advanced adopters (as well as group leaders) to go out with groups once they have agreed to adopt a trail.

“With so much annual public use, the trails require constant supervision. When the trails deteriorate, then we have to close them,” Gary said. “Those who maintain these trails must be properly trained to volunteer in our forests. I am only one person, so it does little good to have more trails adopted if we don’t have additional trained group leaders to go out with these groups.”

A basic adopter can only work with Forest Service supervision. An advanced adopter may work without supervision but under certain guidelines. A group leader must be at least 18 years old and complete a recognized form of forestry and trails safety.

McGraw needs our assistance and we need his. There is an opportunity for each of us to have a richer experience in life here in Grand County through cooperation. The families in the local community will benefit from their ability to spend quality time out in nature, in an affordable manner. The youth will have an unlimited source of supervised activities with potential job and educational opportunities. Our forests and trails will benefit because the impact of human contact will be properly minimized and/or mitigated.

After the experience this weekend helping with the trail, some of the youth and adults participating in The Grand County Center 4 Excellence met this and have decided to adopt this trail and possibly others. We feel this connection with the Forest Service will offer additional outdoor and experiential academic opportunities for the youth participating in the program.

The youth also decided that they want to build a Venturing Boy Scout Troop.

We have contacted Gary to complete the proper paperwork.

If you or your program would like to get involved with trail restoration as well, contact Gary at (970) 887-4100. For Scouting, outdoor or educational opportunities for talented and gifted youth, contact Lawrence Norman at (970) 509-0504.

Here is what folks had to say about this weekend experience:

Winter Gray: “I thought it was really productive and if more people knew about this program, then we could expand more and it would be a real hit. The most fun I had was probably just being out. My mom is working all the time and we don’t get to get out and do things like this. The work was cool. Mr. McGraw let us come work and then we had a chance to spend some time just relaxing. We got to help out the community and spend some time with friends and family.”

Kyja Fitzgerald: “It was fun. We learned you should never feed wild animals food, or the animals will eat the food in your coolers. The most fun thing was going to the big waterfall hiking.”

Lawneattra Norman: “We learned that you should be careful with fire. The most fun thing was roasting S’mores.”

Janette Love: “This was yet another opportunity to see our local youth taking responsibility for their community, not just for our town, but the greater community to include our forests.”