In the Field: Extended Season

But Wait… There’s More [Conservation]: First Fall Crew Boasts Great Successes

An extra seven weeks of conservation work? Count the Rocky Mountain Conservancy – Conservation Corps in!

The Rocky Mountain Conservancy’s Conservation Corps hosted its inaugural extended season, starting mid-August and ending the beginning of October. The crew, aptly titled the “Fall Crew,” or the “Extended Crew,” traveled around Northern Colorado to practice conservation on various public lands. In doing this, the Fall Crew partnered with three major agencies: the Poudre Wilderness Volunteers (PWV), Headwaters Trail Alliance (HTA), and Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP).

A group of people standing on a dock near a lake.

Focused predominantly on trail work, the Fall Crew dug deep. Comprised of a conglomerate of folks from the summer season, the six crew members came into the fall season with knowledge and positive attitudes. These attributes especially helped when the first project with the PWV, scheduled in the Rawah Wilderness, came to a screeching halt due to the start of the Cameron Peak Fire just two days earlier. A few adjustments and some perseverance later, the crew tackled several trenched trails in the Glen Haven area, including Bulwark Ridge, Crosier Mountain, and the North Fork Trail. In addition to placing check steps to mitigate trenching, the crew also decommissioned an old trail in the North Fork area and placed new signage at the Bulwark Ridge and Signal Mountain Trail intersection.

A dirt road in the woods with trees in the background.

Following their stint with PWV, the crew moved into Rocky Mountain to assist on a project that has been a long time coming: the Alluvial Fan Trail. Designed as an ABA trail (Architectural Barriers Act), the Alluvial Fan abides by strict standards, thus allowing visitors using wheelchairs to access the area. To achieve these goals, the Fall Crew moved thousands of pounds of fill material, leveling it in the process, then tamping, and repeating until the trail was up to standard. Because the Alluvial Fan had come to resemble a construction site, the crew also assisted in rehabilitating the areas around the tread, creating rock gardens and tilling up soil to promote regrowth of vegetation. Look really closely, and you might be able to see their work; disguise was their goal!

A fallen tree in the middle of a forest.

The final three weeks of the Extended Crew’s season was spent west of Rocky with the Headwaters Trail Alliance. Here, we spent most of our time cleaning up from the derecho that happened over Labor Day Weekend. This wind event flattened trails, including the beloved Jim Creek Trail, with aerial microbursts that flattened thousands of trees. On Jim Creek alone, the crew removed upwards of 1,200 trees, in some areas stacked one on top of the other, twelve feet above the ground.

A fallen tree on a trail in a forest.

Additional tree removal was focused in the Idlewild Trail System outside of Winter Park, and on the Strawberry Lake and Strawberry Bench trails off of Arapaho Bay Road. Aside from clearing trees, the extended crew also participated in two separate bridge-building projects. One bridge was constructed across Vasquez Creek on the Blue Sky Trail. On National Public Lands Day, the crew teamed up with HTA, the BLM, and volunteers from the area to tackle not one, but two bridges in a single day! These bridges will be a part of the new Phases Trail System. Old, unsustainable tread in this area was also decommissioned by the Fall Crew, with the hope of creating better trails that wind and weave through beautiful terrain but demand less hands-on maintenance.

A group of people posing on a wooden bridge.

Overall, the success of the extended crew planted the seed for the continuation of an expanded Conservation Corps program that nearly doubles the time on-the-ground of the summer Corps. Thank you to our partners for allowing us to work alongside them and help to preserve these trails for our communities for years to come.

A group of people standing on a dock near a lake.

2020 Corps out. See you next May!

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