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Volunteers for the National Trails Day restoration event work on Rainbow Trails. Photo courtesy of Salida Mountain Trails.

On Saturday, June 3, trail stewardship organizations Salida Mountain Trails (SMT) and the Central Colorado Mountain Riders (CCMR) came together on Methodist Mountain in Salida to celebrate National Trails Day and do some maintenance on Rainbow Trails. This marked their second consecutive year of celebrating National Trails Day by restoring Rainbow Trails.

SMT is primarily devoted to maintaining trails for mountain bike usage, while CCMR focuses on trails for motorized vehicles. Both groups perform maintenance duties on multi-use trail systems and place a strong emphasis on ensuring accessibility for all user groups.

The first riders in 2022 on the reconnected Rainbow Trail from let to right:Cory Wiloughby, Anthony Ware – VP, Central Colorado Mountain Riders, Tyler Smith – Salida Ranger District OHV Crew. Courtesy photo.

Some 60 stewards gathered at Little Rainbow Trailhead, including representatives from the Forest Service, leaders for both SMT and CCMR and dozens of community volunteers, both new and returning.

In fact, SMT and CCMR had the unique luxury of maxing out their volunteer capacity, in that they literally ran out of tools and equipment to hand out to participants. This is extremely rare for stewardship organizations like SMT and CCMR, said Jon Terbush, executive director of SMT.

The primary focus of the day’s work was drain management along an eight-mile segment of Rainbow Trail, which is co-adopted by SMT and CCMR. The adopted section runs from Pot-o-Gold to Bear Creek, but CCMR maintains all 57 miles of the trail system. This year, the crew concentrated on four miles of trail to the east of CR-108, as opposed to the three-mile section to the west of CR-108 that they worked on last year.

Rainbow Trail was heavily affected by the Decker Fire in 2019, which left a significant burn scar on the trails and surrounding land. Consequently, the soil has become parched, leading to excessive water flow when rain finally arrives.

This excessive runoff obstructs drainage infrastructure and results in the formation of “half-pipe” shaped trails, according to SMT Executive Director Jon Terbush.

Volunteers gather in 2023 to get set up for the day’s work. Photo courtesy of Salida Mountain Trails.

SMT dedicates a considerable amount of effort to training volunteers so that they can perform maintenance work outside of officially scheduled restoration events like the one on Saturday. In the last year, stewards trained by SMT have performed more than 500 hours of trail maintenance entirely on their own time. According to Terbush, this adds up to $10,000 in value added to the trail system. 

“This is just a fantastic thing that SMT and CCMR have put together,” said Salida District Ranger Perry Ellis, who oversees the 440,000 acres of the San Isabel National Forest.

The perhaps unlikely union of motorized and non-motorized focused trail groups was a major theme of the day’s events. While mountain bikers and motorized off-roaders may historically have a contentious relationship, there wasn’t even a whiff of tension in the air at Little Rainbow Trailhead.

Dani Cook, the trail coordinator for San Isabel National Forest, echoed Ellis’ sentiments, remarking how nice it was to see “different user groups coming together, converting user conflict.” 

CCMR has a formal contract with the Forest Service to perform routine trail maintenance across Central Colorado. In fact, according to CCMR vice president Anthony Ware, they have adopted all the motorized single-track trails in Chaffee County except for Pass Creek and Triad Ridge.

As he ate his lunch and looked out at the volunteers milling about, packing their things away and enjoying the mid-afternoon sunshine, Jon Terbush expressed his satisfaction with the National Trail Day celebration, saying: “It’s not everywhere in the country, let alone the state that you get a non-motorized group, motorized group, plus the state, plus the federal government to come out and collaborate on stuff like this.”