Colorado Springs is guilty of loving its trails to death.
“The grandeur of these parks creates such interest in recreating, and it’s something to celebrate,” said Scott Abbott, Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation & Cultural Services supervisor. “But our goal is to allow that recreation while balancing taking care of them.”
That sense of stewardship was highlighted Saturday at National Public Lands Day events across the country and the state as thousands of volunteers picked up shovels and rakes to beautify their parks.
This year’s annual event focused on resilience and restoration with more than 2,600 volunteer sites across the country.
At Red Rock Canyon Open Space, volunteers addressed a common problem throughout the city’s parks: rogue trails.
Informally known as social trails, these are unofficial paths that are created when visitors veer off the designated trails. Over time, they can become compacted enough that they are indiscernible from the correct course.
Although rogue trails frequently can provide solitude and stunning vistas, their damage can be extensive. Courtney Crews, a park ranger at Red Rock Canyon Open Space, said rogue trails can accelerate habitat fragmentation and erosion as well as put hikers in dangerous situations.
“Especially in Red Rock, there is delicate sandstone that can sometimes break off and potentially leave someone hurt,” she said. “And when people say they thought it was the trails, it’s hard to enforce.”
The 11 volunteers who participated Saturday tackled a social trail off the Rim Trail, which is a particular safety hazard since it leads to a cliff.
Kelley Mathews, a former park ranger with the city and a University of Colorado at Colorado Springs graduate student, said the work is “a good mission.”
“When I get the opportunity to work in a place where I have had so much fun, I’m always here,” she said, pointing to a water fowl as it flew over the lake by the pavilion.
By the end of the day, the trail will have been revegetated and blocked by a fence, a small piece of keeping Colorado Springs public lands beautiful.
Garden of the Gods also hosted a National Public Lands Day volunteer event, as well as parks in Penrose and Cañon City.
Twitter: @lizmforster Phone: 636-0193