Youth corps completes trail at Steamboat Lake

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— After two years of work, the Willow Creek Trail at Steamboat Lake State Park is complete and officially open for hiking.

Two crews of teen-agers from the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps worked all week to put the finishing touches on the two-mile stretch of trail, which opened Friday.

The trail addition gives park visitors another option if they want to hike through the recreational area.

"For a long time the Tombstone Nature Trail was the only trail we had at Steamboat Lake," Park Manager Ken Brink said. "We've been trying to get some more trails in the park."

Willow Creek Trail, which is the second trail in the park, starts at the visitor center and winds through the open spaces, over two creeks and ends at the marina parking lot.

"You get some incredible views of Hahn's Peak and the lake and of wildlife," Brink said. Mule deer, beaver and sandhill cranes are common sights off the freshly beaten path.

Brink described the trail as short and scenic and almost anyone can walk it.

"It's perfect for an after-dinner hike," he said.

The primary duty of the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps crews was to "grub" the trails, Brink said. That means they were actually digging into the soil and creating the path.

"This is a project we've been working on for a couple years," Youth Corps field coordinator Theron Burgess said. "This was the last push for the project."

While working on the trails, one crewmember camped near Hahn's Peak and the other in Big Red Park.

The work on Willow Creek Trail occurred during the first week of a four-week program that takes the youths around the state to work on public lands, and get paid.

This weekend, the two crews, each made up of seven workers and two leaders, will camp on Rabbit Ears Pass and then go their separate ways to the next project.

One will travel to the Colorado Forest State Park near Cameron Pass to work on all-terrain vehicle trails and put up fences.

The other crew will go to Rifle Falls State Park north of Rifle to do some trail rehabilitation.

"It's a great program to be involved in," Burgess said. He added that it's incredible to watch the crewmembers' confidence and self-esteem grow through the four weeks.

"That's why I've been involved in the program for so long," Burgess said.

This is his sixth year.

For Brink, using the program to build the new trail was a bonus for the final project. Park workers could have used heavy equipment to do the work in less time.

"I think having them do it by hand is a little more sensitive to the environment," he said.

The state park received a grant from Great Outdoors Colorado to pay the youth corps workers for their effort.

To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail dcrowl@amigo.net

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