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Hard work keeps outdoor trails accessible

Partnerships form to keep Jeffco trails in great condition


In September 2013, it rained in Colorado.

And it kept raining. So much so that some areas of the foothills received an entire annual precipitation accumulation average in 10 days, according to a paper written by Steven E. Yochum, a hydrologist with the U.S. Forest Service at the National Stream & Aquatic Ecology Center in Fort Collins.

During this event, the majority of the rain fell in a 36-hour time period, on Sept. 11 and 12, Yochum wrote. Counties most impacted by floods from these rains were Larimer, 15 inches; Boulder, 18 inches; and El Paso, 16 inches.

“We were spared the worst of it,” said Al Head, the stewardship coordinator for the Golden Giddyup. “But nevertheless, our trails in Golden were hit pretty hard.”

Because of the flooding, Apex Park, located in Golden with trailheads off Highway 93 and Lookout Mountain Road, was closed — all 700 acres, including the park's nearly 10 miles of trails.

But with hard work and the formation of various partnerships, including the Giddyup Trail Team, Apex Park eventually opened back up for public use.

“These are people's public lands,” said Mathew Martinez, the volunteer services specialist with Jeffco Open Space. “Anytime we engage with partners, there's a benefit to the community.”

Jeffco Open Space group projects

Jeffco Open Space was founded as a land conservation organization in 1972. Today, it has preserved more than 54,000 acres of land, and manages 29 open space parks and more than 236 miles of trails in Jefferson County.

Jeffco Open Space works with countless community, state or municipality partnerships, Martinez said, but some of the most frequent ones are group projects. This year, Martinez expects that at least 40 groups of 10 or more people will volunteer before the end of the calendar year.

“As long as the weather is conducive, we'll get people out there,” Martinez said.

Primarily it's businesses that want to get involved with group projects, he said, but other organizations such as schools or faith-based groups also like to help with stewarding the open space lands.

“It's great for team building,” Martinez said, “in addition to a way to get away from the computer and desk and utilize one of Colorado's greatest assets — the outdoors.”

Projects can be anything such as preservation of historical and cultural sites, pulling noxious weeds or planting native plants and trail building and restoration projects.

“People in Colorado generally value the outdoors. These group projects produce really tangible benefits,” Martinez said. “It's hard work, but it's rewarding.”

Golden Giddyup

Because they are outdoor enthusiasts, mountain bikers and avid users of Jeffco trails, a group of people — Head, Mike Melanson, Jen Barbour and Ben Davis — approached Jeffco Open Space and asked about what they could do to help reopen the parks and trails following the 2013 floods.

That year, Jeffco Open Space allowed the small group of volunteers into Apex Park to begin some trail restoration. The group went back to Jeffco Open Space in 2014 with an idea to provide trail stewardship hours for permission to host an annual mountain biking event in the open space parks. But the City of Golden had a temporary moratorium on new events at the time, so the group continued its outdoor stewardship efforts for another year until they got the OK to put on the event.

Thus, “the Giddyup Trail Team was born,” Head said.

Initially known as Friends of Apex Park, it started off following the floods with only about a dozen or fewer volunteers, Head said. Today, the Giddyup Trail Team has grown to about 250 volunteers, who have worked more than 2,750 hours on Jeffco trails to date in 2017.

“There's such overwhelming interest in supporting Jeffco and Golden trails,” Davis said. “It builds community, and that's what we're doing.”

The trail team focuses its efforts at Apex, Windy Saddle and North Table Mountain parks, because of their popularity and the Golden Giddyup mountain bike race takes place in those parks, Head said.

For a long time, mountain bikers didn't have an outlet, Head said. Mountain bikers were often viewed as troublesome, he added, because the way that some of them used the trails was disturbing to equestrians and hikers.

So the Golden Giddyup has made efforts — such as publishing videos on its website that advocate respectful ways to use the trails — to help make everyone's trail experience better, Davis said.

“We worked really hard to build relationships,” he said. “We're just as invested in this community as other trail visitors.”

Colorado Mountain Bike Association (COMBA)

After you buy new mountain bike, generally the first thing you're going to ask is, “where can I ride it?” said Gil McCormick, the trails lead for COMBA and advocacy director for Wheat Ridge Cyclery.

That's where COMBA comes in — the nonprofit is dedicated to the development and preservation of great mountain biking experiences in Colorado.

Although the main purpose is to make the trail better for mountain biking, McCormick said, that in turn makes the trail better for all users.

“We work very closely with Jeffco Open Space to make sure the work they want done, gets done,” McCormick said. “It's not just us out here on our own.”

McCormick urges anyone who enjoys the outdoors to seek out an opportunity to get involved with trail stewardship.

It takes a variety of people with different skill sets, he said, from those who can bring the cookies for lunch to those who can lift the big, heavy rocks.

“There's always a lot of work to be done,” McCormick said. “It's good for the community to give back to the public lands. It's just the right thing to do.”


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