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The Greater Arkansas River Nature Association (GARNA) Friends of Fourmile was awarded a $26,300 grant from the Chaffee Common Ground Fund in early 2020, aiming to revise the Fourmile Travel Management Area Recreation Guide and to update the recreation map opening the Fourmile area east of Buena Vista.

The grant also supported the creation of new detailed maps of the growing trail system and the development of guidelines to encourage and educate users on safe, low-impact, sustainable public land use. 

The new brochures, which include an updated map of the area, emphasize controlling visitor impact and focus less on promoting the area. There is currently a three-year supply (18,000 copies) of the new brochures. The updated kiosk map panels include maps of new and existing trails in increased detail, trail difficulty ratings, and messaging on responsible recreation. 

The kiosks also feature panels focused on trail etiquette for all patrons, including guidelines to reduce the resource impact of dispersed camping; tips for hikers, bikers, and other non-motorized trail users; and reminders about safe, enjoyable, low-impact motorized riding. Another aspect of the project is the reprinting of the Salida District National Forests Motorized Vehicle Travel brochure. 30,000 copies of a revised brochure were printed and will be available in agency offices and at new motorized etiquette kiosks. 

Trail maps and difficulty ratings are intended to make trail use safer while supporting enjoyable use of Fourmile.

Fourmile spans 100,000 acres of public lands and is jointly managed by the USFS’s Salida District and Royal Gorge Office of the Bureau of Land Management. In addition to the Common Ground grant, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the Town of Buena Vista, and the Buena Vista Singletrack Coalition (BVSC) contributed to the project, as well as the U.S. Forest Service.

Close collaboration with these groups as well as the Chaffee County Visitor’s Bureau, Central Colorado Mountain Riders, and Colorado Off-Road Enterprises brought detailed conceptual input. Each new kiosk panel was reviewed by more than a dozen different participants and approved by the two agencies.

Long-time Friends of Fourmile volunteers and project contractors Alan Robinson and Kathy McCoy led project management and graphic design. Robinson says the guiding principles of the project are to help visitors understand that their recreation has impacts, not only on Fourmile’s physical resources and wildlife but on the enjoyment of others who come to recreate there. 

“We’re looking to educate our visiting public on what sort of impacts recreation has on the land, and what sort of impacts it has on other visitors, other people who are there to recreate at the same time,” Robinson says. “And we would like them to, in effect, modify their behavior so that they have minimum impact on those resources.”

Friends of Fourmile volunteers Kathy McCoy, graphic designer (left) and Alan Robinson, project manager comparing the new Fourmile brochure map with the full-sized new kiosk map at the Midland Trail trailhead on CR304. Courtesy of GARNA Friends of Fourmile.

Robinson feels there are many ways to reduce the human impact on these public lands:

  • Detailed, accurate maps with trail difficulty ratings and pointers on safety encourage visitors to “Stay the Trail,” reducing the use of unauthorized routes and supporting safe enjoyable experiences.
  • Posters and panels on trail-and-land-use “etiquette” help educate overnight campers, cyclists, hikers, and off-highway vehicle users on “best practices” for enjoying their time in Fourmile while reducing wildfire risks, minimizing trash, preventing campsite expansion, and sharing roads and trails. 

McCoy, who worked on graphic design, worked with project partners to identify the most important and useful map details and behavioral messages. The project team then wrote and designed the materials to convey the information and messages in a positive, user-friendly way. 

“This is a fun challenge,” McCoy says, “when there are many points people really need to know but you don’t want them overwhelmed by dos and don’ts.”

Project development, distribution, and panel installation faced a number of unique hurdles due to the pandemic. However, with collaboration, hands-on assistance from project partners, and many face masked volunteer hours, most of the work was completed before Fourmile’s busy Memorial Day weekend, which hit all-time highs for use in 2020.

New maps and panels were placed in 17 existing kiosks before Memorial Day, and new kiosks and panels were constructed and placed this past fall with partner labor. As of this spring, Fourmile will have a total of 44 kiosks once the final five kiosks from the project are completed. 

The Common Ground grant wrapped up on schedule by the end of the year. Fourmile’s 2020 sign project is one element of the Envision Recreation in Balance Program that is working to manage the rapid growth of outdoor tourism in ways that sustain the local tourism economy, natural resources, and exceptional outdoor experiences. Program goals were developed for the Chaffee Recreation Council to deliver an all-lands management plan by mid-2021.