RIDGWAY – Top of the Pines hosts an Open House and Family Day Saturday, Sept. 21,1-4 p.m., to raise funds and awareness for the revitalization effort now underway at the rustic former Girl Scout Camp in the big ponderosa pines atop Miller Mesa, five miles south of Ridgway. Lemonade and water will be provided. To get there, take County Road 5 south (toward Elk Meadows subdivision) to Highland Drive, then turn right and follow the balloons.
Community members are invited to bring a picnic lunch, their bikes and their families to join fellow Top of the Pines supporters for a day of live music, scavenger hunts, hiking and biking tours, and good times with friends and neighbors. The event will also feature a slideshow and video screening about Top of the Pines.
The scavenger hunt can be self-guided or adult-facilitated on the half-hour, at
1:30, 2:30 and 3:30 p.m.
TOP board members Chris Haaland and Liza Clark will lead tours to show where proposed new multi-use trails will go in, around the perimeter of the property. Board members will also be on hand to explain the history of TOP and the vision for its future.
TOP board member Paula James describes the 125-acre setting as “heart stopping,” with its “stunning view of Mt. Sneffels, beautiful forested acreage and enclosed pavilion.”
After scraping by with a very small, active board for many years, TOP added five new members in January 2013. “We now have an active board of eight, with new blood, energy and ideas,” James said.
Since January, this new board has been working to clarify and realize its new vision for the facility. “What we all would like to see is a regional outdoor education center with camping and rustic lodging, where the community can come, as well as outside groups, to boost the local economy,” James said. “We would also like to be able to do improvements in an environmentally sensitive, sustainable way that would set an example for other projects of its kind.”
Proposed upgrades would include the addition of indoor toilets and showers, a commercial kitchen, audio-visual equipment, and yurts for breakout rooms.
“The goal is to make it a usable center,” James said. “But we want to make sure we have community support.” Toward that end, TOP will be asking guests who attend the Open House to complete a survey, asking what kinds of activities they feel are most important at Top of the Pines.
The 175-acre property located at 8,500 feet above Ridgway at the foot of the Sneffels range, in a spectacular setting surrounded by mountains, forests and meadows, was acquired by Ouray County in 2002 from the Bureau of Land Management and the Grand Junction Chipeta chapter of the Girl Scouts, who decided it was no longer a feasible camp location. The property is managed by Top of the Pines, Inc., a 501(c)(3 ) non-profit, under contract with Ouray County for this purpose. The agreement requires that the property be used by groups by reservation in the summer, but in the winter the open space preserve has six kilometers of trails open to the public for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
When TOP, Inc., took over management of the property in 2002, the buildings were in serious disrepair. The property had been essentially abandoned by the Girl Scouts for decades, with no maintenance or oversight.
A Great Outdoors Colorado grant was awarded a few years ago to essentially clean the place up and enclose the former dining room structure. TOP applied for another GOCO grant in March, but didn’t get it.
However, James said, a representative from GOCO recently visited the center while in the area for the Western Slope Rural Philanthropy Days event, “and was quite impressed.”
“This is not the kind of thing they usually fund, but he encouraged us to resubmit our application and gave us tips to tweak it,” James said. “We are going to go back next year with an amended application and try to get enough money to finish out the pavilion.”
TOP is also looking for individual donations to help with this effort.
Attendees Saturday can buy tickets for an upcoming drawing with chances to win local beef (one-eighth of a cow from rancher Liza Clark), lodging in Acapulco for five nights and in Santa Fe for two nights. The drawing will be held in early December.
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