All across the country thousands of people who support the nation's public lands were out helping to improve them Saturday, and Grand Valley residents were no exception.

The day officially was National Public Lands Day, which is used to help bring awareness of the importance of public lands, to encourage more people to use them and to galvanize volunteers to help maintain them.

As they do every year here, members of the Grand Mesa Nordic Council volunteered their time to clear trails that cross-country skiers will use when snow arrives this winter.

This year marks the sixth year in a row that council members have done this, said Winslow Robertson, president and director of operations for the council.

"National Public Lands Day is a countrywide effort to get people out to volunteer to help out generally in the woods, and certainly around here we try to get our members to help do some of the trail maintenance that has to be done," Robertson said. "We've been doing a lot of work all summer. There's been a lot of blow down. We had so much wind last spring and issues with the spruce bark beetle, so stuff is coming down left and right."

While some of the trails are used by hikers during the non-snow months, Robertson's chief interest is in making sure the trails are safe and conducive for Nordic skiers.

That means removing any fallen logs, leftover tree stumps and big rocks that would be hidden by snowfall, something skiers don't want to run into.

The new sign project was possible not only because of the volunteers, but also thanks to a $6,000 grant from the outdoor recreation store REI, which has given money to the group in past years.

Robertson and his Nordic colleagues weren't the only ones out there helping to fix up or improve public lands.

Out at McInnis and Devil's canyons, volunteers from The Great Old Broads for Wilderness were installing new signs along several trails on Saturday.

Last year during National Public Lands Day, more than 200,000 volunteers spent time working on more than 2,600 sites nationwide, completing about $18 million worth of public lands improvements, according to the National Environmental Education Foundation.

The event is not to be confused with Colorado Public Lands Day, which is recognized on the third Saturday in May.

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