The great outdoors holds a special place in the hearts of many Coloradans, and the well-worn trails threading the state’s wilderness bear testament to that fact. Trails as loved as ours are prone to deterioration, but this summer, you can help get them restored to the glory they deserve.
This year, the National Forest Foundation (NFF) is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the National Trail Systems Act with the Summer of Trails, an effort to raise money for the maintenance of trails nationwide. They’ll crowdfund the money until September 30, and the donations will be matched up to $500,000 by the U.S. Forest Service, and will be distributed to trail improvement projects nationwide. That means the more we give, the more our beloved trails will benefit.
For the Centennial State, these funds are especially vital. “Colorado has an amazing trail system,” says Mary Mitsos, president of the NFF. “There’s such a short season that they get very heavy use when the snow is off.” And while you might be eager to hike your favorite fourteener despite any obstacles in your way, going off the beaten path does more harm than good. Trails can suffer serious damage when people veer off designated trails, Mitsos says.
Worse still, the same wildfires that decimate our beautiful forests have also made it more difficult to continue trail upkeep. The Forest Service’s budget has remained relatively stable over the last few decades, but forest fires occur more frequently and burn through larger portions of the budget every year. In 2000 fire suppression was only 15 percent of the budget, but last year it jumped to 50 percent, leaving less money available for trail stewardship, Mitsos says.
With the Summer of Trails initiative, all nine regions under the NFF’s care, including the Rocky Mountains, are guaranteed an equal share of the fundraiser’s money by 2019, Mistos says. Local trail stewardship groups will submit proposals to decide exactly how and where their region’s funds will be used. Future projects might include putting rocks at the bottom of a mountain to stop erosion, moving trees off pathways, or adding water bars to divert flooding that might wash away trails.
So whether you prefer to hike, bike, or ride your way through Colorado’s forests and grasslands, donating to the Summer of Trails will ensure there’s still a trail to guide you wherever your adventures might lead.
Get involved: Make a donation to the National Forest Foundation’s Summer of Trails initiative. The campaign runs through September.