OURAY - With the arrival of spring, Ouray Trail Group volunteers have been out on the hiking trails of Ouray County cleaning up winter’s debris.
There’s always plenty to do to ensure that everyone can hike safely – from cutting and removing downed trees to shoring up trails, sprucing up signs and monitoring trail registers.
Ouray Trail Group (OTG) was formed in 1986 to maintain trails throughout Ouray County. Now the 501c (3) nonprofit all-volunteer group takes care of nearly 200 miles of hiking trails. OTG volunteers work under the authority of the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and the staff of District Ranger Tammy Randall-Parker.
“The USFS no longer has money in its budget to carry out a lot of trail maintenance, and we take up the slack,” explained OTG president Gary Dunn. Volunteers collectively put in 4,600 hours of labor in 2011.
OTG’s work couldn’t be accomplished without the help of other groups, such as Hardrock 100 volunteers, Dunn said. These hardy souls annually work on the Bear Creek Trail, which is part of the Hardrock 100 ultra-endurance run course. Last year Hardrock 100 volunteers also helped work on the Goldbelt-Horsethief, Old Twin Peaks Trail, and the Dallas Trail.
“The Ouray County Commissioners deserve a round of applause for reaffirming that historic trails such as the Goldbelt-Horsethief and the Chief Ouray are open to the public,” Dunn stressed.
Other individuals Dunn noted who have provided special help and support to the OTG in recent years include the late Dancing Pat Morris, who used his llamas to transport sign posts; Dave Nix of Montrose who contributes his professional chainsaw expertise on the largest and most dangerous “widow maker” trees; Jerry Whitlock of Montrose who uses his mules to transport tools and materials; Dave Hoops, who allows OTG to use his yurt for overnight work in a remote area; Jay Mitchell, an outfitter who has helped transport sign posts; and Mike Matteson, for his recon skills and vast number of work days.
“Not to be forgotten are students from Ouray High School, who contributed hard work on the Ouray Perimeter Trail, and worked with the Ouray Beautification Committee on the Ouray River Trail,” Dunn said. “And Montrose High School students deserve thanks for their work on the Goldbelt-Horsethief.”
On National Trails Day last June, OTG volunteers and USFS rangers conducted much-need work on the Dallas Trail to make it safer and easier to hike.
For anyone venturing out for a hike in the region, the OTG’s Hiking Trails of Ouray County combines 12 USGS topographical maps into one easy-to-read map showing over 83 trails, and can be purchased at most retail outlets in Ouray, San Miguel and Montrose counties. Revenues from map sales are OTG’s primary source of funding.
“The group really needs more volunteers – particularly young able-bodied ones,” Dunn joked, pointing out that most of the OTG volunteers are in their 60s and 70s. “Everyone is welcome to work or just walk along with a trail crew and enjoy the scenery.”
Interested in volunteering? Contact Phil Wolkin, trail maintenance boss at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 325-4368.