The Paonia Ranger District (PRD) is a remote district of the United States Forest Service, tucked in the mountains of western Colorado. Paonia has a long history with the Gunnison National Forest for providing backcountry opportunities for the American public. Predominant use of the forest is by foot and horse. The trails are single-track arteries into the remote interiors, providing the willing user with an authentic Colorado backcountry experience.
Over the years, maintenance of the trails has been challenging. Livestock traffic combined with erodible soils and heavy moisture has degraded many trails. Other trails have been almost abandoned, as heavy, herbaceous growth and downfall has choked the thoroughfares. During our work, we strove to address this process and maintain the arterial trails to standard, providing for a safe and enjoyable user experience.
Some main trails had large mud holes that were dangerous to horses and users. The crew built two large structures that elevated and protected the trail from water erosion. The crew also widened several dangerous and exposed sections of trail to aid travel on horseback and constructed five different steps for the same purpose. After finishing their work on the tread, the crew brushed out sections of trail and filled holes in the surface along the extensive turnpike on the Dark Canyon Trail in the heart of the Raggeds Wilderness. The structures were built with native stone quarried from the surrounding area.
The PRD offered a true backcountry experience for the crew by exposing them to the role that horses and mules play in public land management. The PRD utilized stock funded last year by the Heritage Foundation to pack materials into the work sites and pack gravel to fill the completed turnpikes.
The crew had many interactions with trail users from the local area and around the world. We were able to share our experiences and successes with them and promote conservation within the community. The crew also worked alongside a Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) crew supervised by our project sponsor, Barrett Funka. The YCC crew was a younger age demographic and WCCC corps members were able to provide solid examples of leadership in the conservation industry.
All of this was made possible by funding from the National Forest Foundations Grant for the Raggeds Trail Project and we are appreciative of their support!