Organizer Brian Scranton Says, ‘Put Your Shovel Where Your Mouth Is’
RIDGWAY – If you’ve been waiting for the right moment to get involved in the local effort to build an awesome new system of mountain bike trails on Bureau of Land Management property near Ridgway Reservoir, that moment would be now.
Ridgway Area Trails, aka RAT, is teaming up the the BLM for the final trail-building weekend of the summer this Friday-Sunday, Aug. 23-25. The new trails, after years of planning in concert with the BLM, are being carved out of the publicly owned piñon-juniper hillsides north of town and east of the Ridgway Reservoir.
The goal of the project is to develop a well-designed, sustainable, 15-mile trail system that will enhance the quality of recreation in Ouray County, not just for mountain-bikers but for a whole variety of non-motorized users such as trail runners, hikers, walkers, and equestrians.
Trail building, according to RAT board member and crew leader Brian Scranton, is not particularly hard, and it’s a lot of fun. But the coming weekend is about more than just trail-building, he is quick to point out. It’s also about fun and camaraderie, burgers and beer, and even a bit of group riding over freshly carved trails.
“A lot of people are very excited for the new trails,” Scranton said. “We want them to come out and be a part of it. Don’t rely on the same 10-15 people to constantly do the work.”
During the last RAT Trail Building Days event held in late July, volunteers built two whole miles’ worth of trail before the weather shut them down. As Scranton tells it, the crew left off their work at a challenging turn in the trail, which they anticipated completing during the upcoming work weekend.
In the meantime, however, rogue trail builders set out on their own and built the turn. On the one hand, that kind of enthusiasm is awesome, Scranton conceded. But, he stressed, “it really has to be done under the supervision of the BLM. We don’t know who did it, but if we want to keep things on the up and up, we need to be all pulling together at the same time.”
The whole point, Scranton said, is that “we don’t have to be rogue; we can build sustainable trails under BLM’s authority. Rogue trail builders need not apply.”
Trail building efforts this weekend will focus on the southern end of the mesa that comprises the bulwark of the BLM property, in a horseshoe-shaped area that has been christened “The ‘Hood.”
If there is still time, volunteers will then shift their efforts toward building an access trail to reach The ‘Hood from County Road 10. Ouray County Road and Bridge crews have pledged to eventually build a parking lot at the trailhead, Scranton said.
In October, Youth Corps volunteers from Durango will deploy to Ridgway for a whole week of trail building, hopefully finishing up this stage of the project.
Looking down the road a ways, Scranton and his fellow RATs anticipate that the new trail system will be a huge boost for the local economy. But in the meantime, it’s going to take a lot more time, money and manpower to get the system built.
“In many cases, it’s 5,000 bucks a mile [to pay someone to do the work], and if we are trying for 15 miles, that’s a good chunk of change,” Scranton said. “Doing it by ourselves, it takes longer, but we will save a lot more money.”
Scranton and his fellow board members have been trained in sustainable trail building, and will direct this weekend’s efforts alongside BLM officials.
What should volunteers expect when they show up? “Hike up to the trail, grab a tool and the crew leaders will show them exactly what to do – whether it’s clearing trail or raking and removing rocks,” Scranton said. “The camaraderie is great; we laugh the whole time.”
And when the day’s work is done, “It feels great to roll over something built by your own hands.”
The RATs are hoping for a good turnout this weekend, rain or shine. After all, “This is the last weekend of the whole year” that there will be a community trail building event, Scranton pointed out. “If anyone’s thinking of building trail, they should get their ass out there. Put your shovel where your mouth is.”
For more information about this weekend’s activities, find RAT on Facebook, or visit ridgwaytrails.com.
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