Three groups join to build trails at Lunch Loops
Three organizations have come together to help expand the trails in the Tabeguache Area, also known as the Lunch Loops. Their collaboration benefits the organizations as well as the many local recreationists who use the popular trail system at the base of the Colorado National Monument.
Twice a week, David Livingston, director of experiential education for the Hilltop Community Resources, leads a group of teens carrying pick-axes and shovels along the windy switchbacks that lead to the Eagle Tail Trail, just off the Lunch Loop.
Most of the teens, ages 16 to 19-years-old, begin in the program because of delinquent behavior and need to fulfill hours of court-ordered community service.
Hilltop’s Experiential Program introduces the kids to a variety of activities that they might otherwise never get to experience, according to Livingston.
This particular group learns not only the value of hard work through trail building, but also learns to ride and maintain a mountain bike.
“Scraping trails is hard work,” Livingston said, “but they especially like moving the rocks.”
The boys were enthralled by a snake slithering just off the trail Thursday morning.
They often see snakes and other wildlife while working on the trails. Nearly all of the teens said they found working outside the most enjoyable part of the program.
They often complain of the hiking, cold or wind, but Livingston said, it also introduces them to the mountain biking culture which they wouldn’t otherwise have known.
The workers love when hikers or bikers say thank you as they pass and often keep count of how many appreciative statements they can collect in a day.
It gives them a sense of pride that they might not find in their regular lives, Livingston explained.
“When they are old and grey, they can come out here and say they built these trails,” he said.
The crew was joined by Matt De Young, a professional trail builder from Single Track Trails, Thursday morning.
Single Track Trails is a professional company in California that overseas all aspects of trail building from design and layout, environmental review and construction.
De Young, 23, who is from the Bay area in California, carried a rake and other trail grooming equipment. He planned on emphasizing the importance of sustainable trail construction to the boys.
Parts of Eagle Tail have suffered erosion damage due to the wind in the area and have had to be rebuilt by trail crews. De Young examined the new trail for proper outsloping and broadcasting of debris.
“We’re trying to build trails that will minimize maintenance and stop land erosion,” De Young said.
The old trail was not built with enough contour and had steep grades. It will be closed after the new section trail is completed.
De Young said there was more to trail building than just moving some rocks and creating a path.
Depending on the rider level of trail, the path needed to be wider or narrower, and rocks could be placed to create jumps or other elements of fun for the rider while keeping other users such as hikers in mind.
The collaboration between youth trail builders and professional companies is important to maintain the veins of trails in North America, Livingston said.
The Hilltop program recently received a $5,000 grant in appreciation of the work being done in Tabeguache by the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association.
Now, many of the teens can receive a paycheck for their work which either goes in their pocket or helps pay restitution for their crimes.
“It’s a unique partnership between us all,” Livingston explained.
That partnership and hard work of the teens is important to maintaining and building the hundreds of miles of trail available to recreationists across Mesa County.