The times are odd…the trails are good!
It never ceases to amaze us how differently each year unfolds in the Rocky Mountains, and this year is certainly no exception. As odd as these COVID-19 times are, we are ever more grateful to be surrounded by limitless natural opportunities to distance in the Gunnison Valley. We are perhaps even more fortunate to have enjoyed the early season trail opportunities like we did. If May and June had looked like 2019 (frozen and snowing), I’m not sure the sanity of the tribe would have been as intact. It’s a testament to how much trails, access, and recreation mean to the livelihood of this community.
For that reason, but not that reason alone, we entered into the 4th season of the Crested Butte Conservation Corps with an even greater sense of purpose. We’re an enthusiastic bunch, but this spring, we were even more jazzed to get back at it. We know that the experiences our people and our community crave, right here in our backyard, are paramount to pushing forward into this new and strange reality.
So far in the 2020 season, our CBCC crews have cut out 87 trees that fell throughout the winter and spring, worked on 26.3 miles of trails, reached 462 people, and removed 545.9lbs. of trash from our big backyard. The first month of work often involves cleaning up garbage left behind from the previous fall, and we’ve already located our token abandoned backcountry toilet. We’re pleased to report that the crews have noticed a relatively cleaner backcountry than in previous springs. Increased funding for permanent, seasonal bathrooms, and perhaps the local and also statewide messaging, have made a difference. The micro-trash and usual litter is still out there, but we aren’t seeing as much random human waste as we have in previous seasons. That’s great news – fingers crossed it remains that way!
Now that we are open “wall to wall” in terms of trails, the crews have spread out to the high country. Keeping up with fallen trees from large wind events has been quite a task, but the crews love a good chainsaw challenge! We’ve reinstalled the Canal Trail Bridge, worked on the Lower Loop, Lupine 1 and 2, Teocalli Ridge, all the Strand trails, 409, Judd Falls and many more. We teamed up with our friends at Adaptive Sports to make Lupine 1 as shreddy as possible, and we partnered with our Gunnison Trails brethren to work on 412/405.2a. The ability to work together for a common goal across various organizations is a large sense of pride for our organization, and we hope for the community as well.
This year, we are proud to have Nick Catmur as our new Operations Manager. Born and raised in the Gunnison Valley and with the CBCC since its first season in 2017, his attention to detail and passion for CB’s wild places continues to pay off in his new role. Nick is managing daily CBCC operations and scheduling, receiving trail observations, working with our partners and stakeholders, and setting the plan of attack for where the CBCC is most immediately needed. We are fortunate to have two returning crewmembers, Ryan Maddux (4th year) and Alex Banas (3rd year) back this year. These Trail Pros are leading the charge, sharing their extensive trail knowledge, and directing and overseeing projects on the ground. The CBCC welcomed three new hires this year, Grant Spear and Seve Petersen, both natives of CB, along with Jake Scott, to round out the crews for this season. All three have a keen eye for trail work and are doing an incredible job of stewarding our backcountry.
We have many projects in the works this year, including the (now) completed GB Loop, working with the BLM and the CB Land Trust (CBLT) on the Gunsight Bridge to Oh Be Joyful campsite connection, the next phase of Middle Cement Creek Trail, and assisting with the USFS designated camping initiative throughout the Washington Gulch and Slate River drainages. All of these collaborative projects are designed to improve user experiences, along with mitigating impacts of increased visitation and recreation.
With the leadership and foresight of the CO Division of Reclamation, Mining, and Safety (DRMS) and BLM, the new GB Loop transformed from a hodgepodge of illegal trails to a “system route” over the last year. While a lot of reclamation work was completed at the direction of DRMS, the CBCC and some CBMBA volunteers helped make the trail portion a reality. This included a huge amount of decommissioning and restoration work to establish a sustainable and proper route that connects each end of the Lower Loop with continuous and flowy track!
Of the seven drainages around CB (fondly referred to as the Seven Kingdoms), two of the busiest for camping are Slate River and Washington Gulch. New, user-created roads and campsites have been popping up faster than usual this season as more people are getting outside to camp. The county’s Sustainable Tourism and Outdoor Recreation (STOR) committee, with support from the Gunnison County Stewardship Fund (GCSF) and the National Forest Foundation (NFF) have identified that moving from dispersed to designated camping is a priority. This effort is a means to provide spots where users can “disperse” camp (still for free), but with the impacts consolidated and access identified. This summer, you may notice signage with numbered campsites, fencing and boulders, fire rings, and identified parking. Alongside the partners listed above, the CBCC is doing a lot of work on this initiative to aid in a better-managed camping plan for the north end of the valley.
We cannot thank our good supporters enough, whose dedicated support has made the start of our 4th season the best to date. We continue to be humbled that our community rallies behind the mission of CBMBA and the CBCC, and this is what truly allows us to have a successful CBCC each year. In addition to private donors, our partners have made a huge commitment to the CBCC in 2020, and we want to recognize the US Forest Service/Gunnison Ranger District, BLM/Gunnison Field Office, GCSF/NFF, DRMS, Town of Mt. Crested Butte, Tourism and Prosperity Partnership, 1% for Open Space, and Town of Crested Butte. Our mission has been furthered through grants and support from Gunnison County Met Rec, the Community Foundation of the Gunnison Valley, RMBL, CBLT, Mountain Express, and the GOATs, all of whom have contributed to the CBCC’s success in a huge way!
We are dedicated to being the gloved hands and steel-toed boots that will get dirty, pick up what others don’t want to, and send crews charging to make positive impacts in the backcountry. We have the busiest summer months ahead of us, and we are more inspired than ever to steward our backcountry and keep trails in the best shape possible. Please reach out to the CBCC with comments, suggestions, and observations at firstname.lastname@example.org, and check out cbmba.org for all the info about the CBCC, trail conditions and etiquette, and CBMBA workdays and events.