Our view: Taking care of our trails | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: Taking care of our trails

An endowment fund, which was created last year to help maintain area trails on public lands, is currently lacking grassroots support, and promoters of the Trail Maintenance Endowment Fund, which is held by the Yampa Valley Community Foundation, are looking for ways to change that.

Donations to the fund currently total about $131,238, which is almost $70,000 short of this year's fundraising goal of $200,000. We encourage those who enjoy our trails — visitors and locals — to support trail upkeep by donating to the endowment fund and also making sure they are doing their part to keep the trails in tip-top shape. Every donation counts, and even $1 a month from users would add up quickly.

Because the trail endowment fund is fairly new, we hope the lag in fundraising can be attributed to a lack of education and awareness, and we encourage those who are leading the Trail Endowment Maintenance Fund's rallying cry to continue their efforts.

Tonight (Wednesday), trail fund ambassadors are hosting the first of four Trail Tasting Tours, which will take those who donate $20 to the Trail Maintenance Endowment Fund on a tour of several favorite bars and restaurants around town. The first tour will focus on beer, and those who attend are encouraged to walk, jog, bike or even horseback along the tasting tour. The tour begins at 5:30 p.m. at Butcherknife and Storm Peak brewing companies.

The group has also been involved in Token Tuesdays at Mountain Tap Brewery to raise money, and fund stewards hosted a lunch and learn event in June. Informational posters about the fund are on display throughout town, and promoters are also selling T-shirts. A new Bike Ambassadors program, created by Bike Town USA, will also help spread the word about the fund as volunteers interact with those using the trail system on Emerald Mountain.

As Helen Beall, Yampa Valley Community Foundation marketing manager, said, "If you can afford a bike or running shoes or a horse, you can afford a donation to the fund," and we are in agreement with that statement.

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Trails in Steamboat Springs are supported in numerous ways. Many of the new trails were built with lodging tax dollars, a measure Steamboat Springs voters approved in 2013, and it could be misconstrued that the funding also covers trail maintenance, which it does not.

The new trails continue to transform our community's trail system, which, in turn, helps strengthen Steamboat's Bike Town USA brand while also satisfying locals' appetite for improved access to outdoor recreation.

It's also important that trail users understand their role in ensuring they don't damage trails and cause the need for repairs. Recently, the U.S. Forest Service closed off a number of trails in the Buff Pass area that were built and used illegally. The action comes at a time when the Forest Service is expanding the trail system in that area with lodging accommodations money.

We encourage trail users of all types to follow trail usage guidelines, including honoring trail closures due to muddy conditions or wildlife and following trail etiquette.

The trails we love to enjoy on foot, on our bikes and on horseback don't take care of themselves, and as we add new trails to the system, maintenance costs rise. It's imperative we find a way to keep our trails navigable and accessible, and that means trail users should seriously consider giving to a fund that is dedicated to just that.

Over the next eight years, the Trail Endowment Maintenance Fund is hoping to raise between $1 million and $1.5 million, which would mean the group could finance at least $60,000 of trail maintenance annually, and we think that's an effort worth supporting. For more information about the fund or to donate, visit yvcf.org/trails.

At issue: Funding for the Trail Maintenance Endowment is running short of goal for 2017, and fund promoters are looking for ways to grow support for our local trails system during a time when it’s expanding.
Our view: Trail users should be mindful of stewardship responsibilities, which include caring for the trail physically and financially.

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• Paul Weiss, community representative
Contact the editorial board at 970-871-4221 or editor@SteamboatToday.com.

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