New director takes HTA on next leg of journey
Since taking over as executive director of Headwaters Trails Alliance last November, Meara Michel has been hard at work coordinating a number of efforts to preserve and improve trails across the county.
Michel said that the job has been the “perfect culmination” of her backgrounds and interests.
It combines her experience with nonprofits and environmental education with her interests as an avid outdoorswoman.
“I’ve lived out here for almost nine years, and I’ve ridden the trails, hiked the trails, biked the trails, run the trails, cross-country skied the trails, so I feel like I come to this position with a lot of knowledge of all the trails around the county,” she said.
Perhaps Michel’s biggest project thus far has been her work on the county’s Master Trails Plan.
The ambitious project seeks to create a sustainable plan for developing and managing trails across Grand County.
Michel has been busy meeting with stakeholders and various groups representing trail-use interests, keeping everyone informed and in step on the project.
“I might be a little bit busier than I thought I was going to be,” she joked
The original Master Trails Plan was adopted in 1995, Michel said, with its main goal being the establishment of the Fraser to Granby Trail. The HTA was established to help reach that goal.
Since then, the plan has undergone a number of revisions, most recently in 2013, which sought to establish implementation plans for specific trails and add cost estimates.
In January, HTA issued a request for a proposal for the new Master Trails Plan. It hired consultant Scott Linnenburger that same month.
HTA has also established a trails plan committee to help establish goals and objectives of the new plan.
Among the myriad responsibilities that Michel has going forward with the plan, fostering collaboration among various groups is one of the most important, she said.
“We definitely don’t feel like as an organization that we can do this alone,” she said. “This is a very large county with a lot of trails, so the more insight groups and individuals give us the more able we are to facilitate trail improvements and trail development.”
The plan divides the county into three subareas. The plan for the first subarea, which covers the Fraser Valley, should be completed by the end of June, Michel said.
In addition to the Master Trails Plan, Michel said one of her biggest projects is securing sustainable funding for trails in the county.
Michel is exploring various funding avenues, including use fees and taxes among other things.
“I have great partnerships with the county and the towns as far as funding goes, but nothing that is generated from visitors or trail users themselves,” she said.
Moving forward, Michel said she’d be working with various organizations around the county to identify a more consistent funding source.
“Every community seems to have its own unique way of meeting its needs, and I think Grand County is going to be no exception,” Michel said.
For more information about HTA, visit headwaterstrails.org.
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