National Public Lands Day celebrating historic new trail, natural beauty of county
Trails and public lands across Grand County will see an influx of care as volunteers clear paths, install signs, construct connections and clean up trash this weekend in celebration of the 24th National Public Lands Day.
On Saturday hundreds of volunteers will participate in any of the five National Public Lands Day projects in the county to improve and maintain trails and public lands.
“Intrinsically, you’re giving back, not just to your community, but back to the environment and helping to improve a natural resource,” said Meara Mcquain, executive director of the Headwaters Trails Alliance. “It’s a great day of camaraderie and building community.”
Volunteers this year have the opportunity to participate on a historic project to open up the East Shore Trail to bicycle riders. The trail, which starts in Grand Lake and goes into Rocky Mountain National Park for a 2 mile stretch, will be the first trail in any national park to allow bikes.
“This has been 15 years in the making,” Mcquain said. “We’ve moved the entire headquarters this year to Grand Lake because of the celebration of the start of East Shore Trail.”
This year’s other project sites are the Sherman Creek Trail, the upper Colorado River and Argentine Trail, the Continental Divide Trail gateway and Hot Sulphur Springs Town Park.
All of the relevant land management agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and National Parks Service, identify priority projects to submit for the day so resources can be directed to the sites that need it most.
Projects range across all skill levels and interests so that every trail user has a chance to participate and give back to the lands they use.
“We provide a motorized trail, hiking trails, we provide biking trails,” said Diana Lynn Rau, a National Public Lands Day coordinator. “We have something that is interesting to all of the people who are trail users in Grand County.”
The event also coincides with the 50th anniversary of the National Trails System Act, which promoted the preservation of natural beauty across the country.
Lynn Rau said that those values overlap with National Public Lands Day because the goal is to maintain and improve public lands, while also providing a needed service that public agencies do not always have the resources to fulfill.
“National Public Lands Day was created to give people the opportunity to give back to the lands they use so often and love so much,” Lynn Rau said. “The government has cut and cut and cut funding, so the various services hardly have any ability to maintain, to care for, to improve the trails and things we use.”
Nationwide last year, over 200,000 volunteers logged about 680,000 service hours to provide an estimated $18 million in public land improvements. The U.S. Forest Service estimates that volunteers accomplish in one day would take two years for the agency to complete.
Grand County has consistently been the largest and longest running National Public Lands Day event in the country. Last year about 250 volunteers participated.
Mcquain said they expect a similar number of volunteers this year, attributing the popularity of the event to the diversity of projects and the dedication of county residents to their beloved public lands.
“Overall, it’s really about stewardship and advocating on behalf of the wonderful place we choose to live and work,” Mcquain said. “The hope is that it’s a win-win for the land itself and the resources within it, as well as a win for recreation.”
Volunteers have the ability to choose their projects based on interest and skills, but some projects are limited.
Work includes tree planting, rafting and cleaning up the Colorado River, installing signage, corridor clearing and tread improvement, among other options.
Registration begins at 7 a.m. Saturday at the Grand Lake Community Center and transportation to sites will be provided.
Volunteers also receive complimentary breakfast and dinner, as well as a free T-shirt, a chance to win prizes donated by the community and a pass for one-day entrance or day-use fees at participating federal land management agencies, including Rocky Mountain National Park and national forests.
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