Vega State Park manager envisions trail completion

Vega State Park manager envisions trail completion

Vega State Park manager Bob Miller enjoys a brief quiet moment while overlooking the Early Settlers campground.

VEGA STATE PARK — Striding past head-high piles of pea-sized gray gravel along Vega Reservoir’s north shore, Vega State Park manager Bob Miller ducked into a clearing in the tangled brush.

Immediately, any sense of the blustery wind pushing whitecaps across Vega Reservoir disappeared.

Miller, clearly enjoying this break from his daily routine, walked briskly along a chocolate-brown ribbon of raw dirt delineating a new trail along the reservoir’s north side.

He stopped where the rough track offered an expansive view of the state park he’s managed for more than five years.

“I’d really like to see this trail finished before I retire,” Miller said, his usually cheerful face at the moment as troubled as the foam-flecked waters on the reservoir. “We think we can get it done in one more weekend, if we have enough volunteers.”

Miller, with his eye on retiring at the end of June, has shepherded this particular trail project for the past three years.

Plans call for the trail, which has been rough-cut out of the dense brush, to be smoothed, layered with a weed-proof fabric, then topped with fine gravel to form a comfortable walking surface.

Once finished, the 2.5-mile north trail will connect the popular Oak Point campground and day-use area with the main road across the dam to the park visitors center.

It will twin the existing south side trail and offer hikers great views of the reservoir as well as opportunities to see wildlife and native plants.

“I’ve been amazed at how many more deer and elk we’ve seen since we’ve opened this up a bit,” Miller said, lingering at one of the higher points along the undulating trail. “I’d like to put a bench at this spot so people can watch the reservoir, and it’s close to the ospreys nesting in the park.”

A pencil-sized green snake wound across the bare earth, flicking its tongue at the two strangers.

Thanks to Volunteers for Outdoors Colorado, which adopted this trail among the many projects the group sponsors across the state, the trail might be finished by Sunday afternoon.

Saturday is National Trails Day and Volunteers for Outdoors Colorado seeks volunteers to help finish the trail over the weekend.

Participants receive two days of free camping, food and plenty of camaraderie, in return for a bit of sweat equity in a popular state park.

Interested volunteers can find information at

Volunteers such as those recruited by Volunteers for Outdoors Colorado are increasingly important to Vega State Park and the rest of Colorado’s 42 state parks, which face a July 1 deadline when the agency loses all of its general-fund support.

Over the last decade, the Colorado Legislature has been weaning the agency off tax dollars, with general fund money last year making up about 5 percent of the agency’s annual budget.

Starting July 1, there will be no line item for state parks.

The pending merger between state parks and the Colorado Division of Wildlife may provide some relief, although how and to what extent are questions yet to be answered.

Ongoing budget cutbacks have meant staff and other reductions throughout the parks agency.

“You can’t imagine how important programs like Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado are to us,” Miller said. “We always could use more volunteers, and right now I could use a couple more campground hosts.

“But people don’t want to spend their summer here after they learn we don’t have cell-phone service.”

For now, though, he’d be happy to see the new trail completed.


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