Rau: Political support crucial to our trails
The importance of our trails organizations and what they have accomplished has grown by leaps and bounds the last several years thanks to input from local governments, federal agencies, programs like Adopt-a-Trail and NPLD, volunteer groups like FVPT and Grand County Wilderness Group, and many dedicated individuals.
The importance of all these organizations working together has been stressed time and again, which has allowed small budgets to be stretched and resources pooled to create impressive results. Those results need to be recognized and appreciated.
And then we have to tighten our belts again as the economy shifts. Something must give … But do we give on what creates our income? On what is the love of our lives? On why we live here? Grand County is composed mainly of public lands and the impact of federal programs and agencies is huge. Our local governments are for the people and should be run by the people. Those governments need to take action to ensure that those people have a future here in Grand County.
Tourism long ago replaced farming and ranching as probably the biggest income generator in Grand County. A huge part of local tourism is based on trails and trail users. In winter, alpine resorts are filled with downhill trails, Nordic resorts are filled with cross country trails, and snowshoers, fat bikers and snowmobilers link all of it. In warmer times, those trails and open areas are filled with cyclists, hikers, runners, fishermen, horsemen and rafters, to name a few.
Our public lands are well loved by us and well used by multitudes. But for instance, where federal budget cuts are happening, we are losing the U.S. Forest Service non-motorized ranger who has been committed to work on the non-motorized part of trails. Forest Service leadership has been huge defining standards of design and function and training and assisting volunteers.
The Board of County Commissioners has started budget hearings, chopping budgets of many regular programs and nonprofits alike. But to almost cut in half funding to Headwaters Trails Alliance, which thereby eliminates next year’s summer field staff who have had phenomenal success working with both individuals and groups of volunteers and accomplished S-O-O-O much, is ridiculous. Just when the momentum is building and people are beginning to reap aesthetically and financially the improvements created, we can’t stop pushing. Just when we are gaining ground on other communities in the race for the tourist and their tourist dollar, we don’t need to step backwards.
Let the plans and programs continue to grow, support them in letters and conversations with your government agencies and local governments of towns and county level. It’s your money they are spending – tell the officials what you want. Have a voice and support your local trails. Let visitors help pay for these programs and improvements with their tax dollars as well as our own since we use these trails too. Both your financial support and physical support is needed. Express yourself and have a voice. For me, I love our trails and give both of my time and my voice. I ask to see my tax dollars spent developing and maintaining this incredible resource we know as trails.
See you tonight (Friday, Oct. 30) at the Grand Nordic Swap at the YMCA Nordic Center 6-8:30 p.m.
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