Congratulations to Beth, our 2021 Volunteer of the Year! With empathy, respect and kindness for both volunteers and our shared outdoors, Beth embodies the values of Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers. Courtesy photo.

By Jacob Baker

Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers

As this year’s camping trips and bike rides fade to black, trails and open spaces shift gears too: during the snowy months is when the government agencies and nonprofits who jointly care for our shared outdoors reflect on the year that was and plan for the year that will be. Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers (RFOV) is excited to share with you — in our final Trail Notes column of the year — our 2021 stewardship successes . What a year it’s been for getting outdoors! We’re glad that more people than ever are appreciating the outdoors, but a special thanks to everyone that chose to be more than trail-users; thank you to our many volunteers who became trail-participants this field season!

Almost 600 miles of trails stitch together the Roaring Fork, Crystal, and Middle Colorado river valleys, and the number of hikers and bikers has doubled or tripled at some trailheads as compared to previous years. Growing pressures of wildfire and ecological degradation add to the list of challenges that our regional outdoors must grapple with. It’s all to say that, while our community is enthusiastic for outdoors stewardship, the breadth and depth of the needs are increasing at an even greater rate. With this dynamic in mind, RFOV implemented several new initiatives in April: new types of signage, new accessibility standards, a new coalition and new public engagement.

You may have noticed QR-code enabled signage at select trailheads which allow anyone to provide instant notes about their trail experience. RFOV gained insight into trail conditions allowing us to tailor our stewardship work, but recognizing that not everyone wants to provide feedback in this way we’re exploring other methods of receiving comments for the next project season. 

In downtown Basalt, we began implementing trail accessibility standards that prioritize sensory and motor abilities, in addition to federal physical handicap standards. This pathway, called “the Ponderosa Trail,” provides direct access from busy city streets to the Roaring Fork River. In addition to greater access for the disabled community, the trail has become a popular place for work-week lunches and family-friendly strolling.

Following the Grizzly Creek Fire, RFOV convened stakeholders in the newly-formed Glenwood Canyon Restoration Alliance. Though the July landslides caused disruption and damage throughout the burn area, volunteers still accomplished valuable (and lasting work) this year. Moreover, we’ll use the lessons learned in public education efforts to strengthen outreach in 2022.

Finally, we understand that not everyone has the same expectations of our outdoors, so not everyone will engage in stewardship in the same fashion. To that end, we’ve added educational opportunities outside of projects (town halls, book discussions) and within projects (expert-led restoration modules). RFOV is proud that these events have introduced new volunteers of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to the excitement of giving back to public lands.

Together, community members like you contributed 6,262 hours of stewardship hours to our region. Sustainable recreation, healthy landscapes, and fire adaptation aren’t just abstract values: they’re at the core of Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers and we’re grateful they’re also at the core of our community. Thank you!