LARIMER COUNTY, Colorado – A group of volunteers rebuilding a system of trails high in the Rockies that was destroyed by the largest forest fire in Colorado history last fall received $ 15,000 from the Denver7 Gives Forest Fire Fund to order continue their work.
It’s not for the faint of heart.
“209,000 acres burned, about 120 miles of trails burned,” said Mike Corbin, chairman of the board of the Poudre Wilderness Volunteers (PWV). “Just to give you a perspective, in 1986 8,000 acres burned south of here and at the time it was the biggest wildfire in Colorado history. That just shows that we live in another world. “
The forest has been decimated in some places and looks more like a lunar landscape than anything else on earth.
“And there is an enormous risk of flooding,” said Corbin. “There’s mud and slime, so we’re going to solve these drainage problems.”
PWV has an army of volunteers who have so far worked to restore nearly 80 miles of burned trails.
“It’s work, but it’s fun,” said Kathleen Talkington, a volunteer who drove up from Greeley. “We joined PWV because we were on a hike before COVID and we met some volunteers on the way and they were so friendly and helpful and we thought we want to do that.”
The volunteers put in the work so that these paths can be reopened.
“Most of the paths are fire here, no fire there,” said Corbin. “People look at the fire map and say, ‘Well, the whole area is destroyed – we can’t go there.’ It is not. These are the so-called mosaic fires. They burn in mosaic patterns. There are some areas that are not burned at all while there are other areas where everything is burned. And a lot in between. So we have to reopen the trails. “
It’s volunteering as the Canyon Lakes Ranger District no longer has the manpower to keep up.
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“Thirty years ago they had 35 summer jobs,” said Corbin. “They have Matt this summer.”
“I’m the Wilderness and Trail Manager for the Canyon Lakes Ranger District of the Arapahoe and Roosevelt National Forests and Pawnee National Grasslands,” said Matt Cowan.
The Lone Ranger.
“Yeah, that’s about right,” said Cowan.
Cowan says he couldn’t appreciate these volunteers anymore.
“[They’re] We are doing the important work we need to do to bring these trails back to the public, ”said Cowan.
But Corbin will tell you, as the volunteer leader will tell you – it’s not easy.
“Most are retirees,” said Corbin. “I retired from Houston 11 years ago.”
This group isn’t exactly a bunch of spring chickens.
“Our average age is around 65,” said Corbin. “One of our crew leaders is 80.”
With so much to do, PWV recently launched a GoFundMe.
“We’ve never done that before and one of our boys said, ‘Could we do this?’ We said, ‘Well, we don’t know,’ ”said Corbin.
You did it.
“We ended up with over $ 47,000,” said Corbin.
It’s money that they’ll be spending on tools and lumber, but mostly to hire some youngsters for their muscles.
“Amen,” said Talkington.
“There are some benefits to hiring college kids for trail workouts,” said Corbin. “We can do a lot, but having the 20 year olds is a huge advantage.
And you, our Denver7 viewers, helped too – quite generously through the Forest Fire Victim Fund.
“Mike and crew, in recognition of all you’ve done, and on behalf of Denver7 Gives, we acknowledge all the work you have left to do,” said Denver7’s Russell Haythorn. “So we’d be happy to give you this check for $ 15,000.”
“Thank you very much,” said Corbin. “We appreciate it. And we will use this money well next year to rebuild the trails up here. The main thing is to hire college-age crews who come up and do the physical work.”
“We have to keep this alive and keep the path clear,” said Talkington. “And we have to get people back to the mountains. And the way to do that is to work. “
“The work they are doing should help these pathways survive the effects of erosion for years to come,” Cowan said. “These guys were just great.”
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