The structure, honoring the boundless energy and efforts of founding members of the Ouray Trail Group, was built by Mike Cammack with volunteer labor from 11 OTG volunteers. Construction was completed last weekend, just in time for the Fourth of July holiday. It is built on city-owned land at one of the key access points for the Ouray Perimeter Trail.
This five-mile trail system links existing trails with newly built ones to create a loop around Ouray, providing beautiful views of the town and surrounding peaks. It is a work in progress, with a small portion of the trail system on the west side of town still to be completed. OTG estimates the trail was accessed by up to 15,000 hikers last year.
“This memorial shelter is a significant part of the Perimeter Trail,” OTG member Steve Caldwell told the Ouray City Council on Monday, going on to thank councilors and city staff for their support. “This won’t be the last time that I come before you, either. There are other parts of the trail yet to be completed, and we will be trying to work with the city in the near future to complete those portions.”
OTG is a nonprofit corporation of volunteers, founded in 1986, dedicated to the preservation and safe public use of Ouray County’s trails, working in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service’s Ouray Ranger District. The group maintains the Perimeter Trail and 83 additional trails in the immediate area. It has been searching for some time for a systematic way to honor its founders, and a gazebo near the scenic Cascade Falls seemed like the perfect solution.
The Ouray City Council authorized the project in March. Construction was funded by $6,500 in donations made to the OTG in recent years, with in-kind support from the City of Ouray’s Public Works Department to prepare the building site.
OTG has pledged to provide extended maintenance of the shelter. Eventually the group will put plaques on the wall memorializing its founders, along with a map of area trails. The city anticipates moving a bench and picnic table to the area as well, to better accommodate the large numbers of people who visit Cascade Falls.
Completion of the memorial gazebo coincided with National Trails Day on Saturday, June 29. In the past, up to two dozen or more volunteers have turned out locally for this event, to help OTG on various trail maintenance projects. This year, however, Dunn said that there was a lighter turn-out, given that two other events in the county – the Ridgway River Festival and Ouray County Compassion Days – were competing for volunteers.
The small but mighty group of trail volunteers that did turn out focused its efforts on the lower Cascade Trail above the Amphitheater Campground, widening one spot that was very narrow with a steep drop-off, and putting in cribbing and stakes as reinforcement.
OTG’s biggest goal for the remainder of the season is to get the Old Twin Peaks Trail officially re-opened. Ouray District Ranger Tammy Randall-Parker “has been very positive about this project, and we expect to have it open sometime this summer,” Dunn said.
Already, the group has installed a total of 105 stairs along the very steep trail, which ascends from Queen Street toward the iconic Twin Peaks which make up part of Ouray’s mountainous skyline. The historic trail fell out of use after a landslide wiped out a portion of it in 1986.
“It has taken many years to get back into usable shape,” Dunn said. “After the landslide, there were places you would be on your hands and knees. It was that steep, with loose rock just like marbles. Now, it’s like a stairway to heaven.”
Runners who are in Ouray to train for the upcoming Hard Rock 100 ultra-endurance run will be volunteering on the Old Twin Peaks Trail project this weekend. “Every summer they help us out,” Dunn said. “They are very enthusiastic and very strong. We owe a lot to them.”
Once the Old Twin Peaks project is officially done, there will be plenty of other trails for OTG to work on. “On any given Monday or Thursday, you’ll find us out there,” Dunn said, emphasizing that new volunteers are always welcome. For more information, visit ouraytrails.org.