by Paul Parsons
On the evening of January 30th, the All Aboard Westcliffe facility was filled nearly to capacity. The people gathered because of a shared interest in trails in Custer County, informally representing at least seven user groups of trails: by horse, motorbike, ATV, road bike, mountain bike, snowmobile and foot. Presentations were given by Trails For All, an all-volunteer, presently unfunded, grass-roots group that has been meeting for the last year. They shared that their purpose is to maintain, promote, and enhance the trails of the county, and that this community event to which all were invited would be an essential step in moving towards that purpose.
The center focus of the evening was a first public hearing of the 2018 Trails Master Plan, prepared by the Trails For All group. This plan has arisen out of a former master plan for trails adopted in 2004, but which was only partially implemented. The presenters explained that Trails For All has sought to adopt and expand that former effort in the 2018 Master Plan through the following means: 1) inventorying how many trails are known to exist in the county (223, covering 290 miles), 2) discovering the present condition of these trails as well as how these trails are maintained and by whom, 3) beginning plans for promoting these trails, and 4) envisioning some possible new trails. The master plan has within it five potential new trails, all of which are in and around the two Towns of Silver Cliff and Westcliffe.
At this point in the evening, the whole crowd was invited to take an interactive role. They gathered around maps on tables that represented primary user groups. These maps had been created to show the trails that pertain to those user groups, and all were encouraged to mark the maps with their opinions about trails that are great, trails that need work, trails that should be closed down and possible sites for new trails. This was a time of high engagement, creativity, and hopefulness about the future, and many stayed long after the formal meeting time to continue the conversations.
Another key element in the evening was the invitation to those who might want to take part in the practice of clearing trails under the care of the Forest Service. There has been a long tradition of trail maintenance being done by local people over the years, but in recent times a number of the central people in that effort have passed away or aged beyond the ability to continue. When the invitation was given during the meeting to sign up as volunteers to help an underfunded Forest Service with trail work, there was a high degree of interest. This opportunity is open to those who weren’t present on January 30th, and you can make your interest known by emailing Paul Parsons at email@example.com.
From this point forward, Trails For All will take the feedback it received and refine the 2018 Master Plan. When that is finalized, they will report back to the community in print or through another event, or both. And with a document in hand, Trails For All will begin the process of applying for grants from various foundations, seeking funding for promotional materials (new maps, signage, website, brochures, educational pieces, etc.) and for possible new trails around the towns. Stay tuned for more updates in the months to come.