NEW FOURTEENER CAMPAIGN IMPROVES TRAIL CONDITIONS THROUGH COLLABORATION AND INNOVATION
Colorado outdoor organizations work together to address mounting trail needs on Fourteeners
Denver, Colorado —January 2018— In 2017, the National Forest Foundation (NFF) invested nearly $500,000 on three Colorado 14,000-foot-peaks (“Fourteeners”) in desperate need of sustainable trails – Mount Elbert, Pikes Peak and Quandary Peak.
The investments are part of a new campaign, Find Your Fourteener, which launched earlier this year to improve sustainable recreation by fixing the damage from eroded, gullied, and braided trails, improving and restoring fragile alpine habitat, and creating trail systems to enhance outdoor experiences for hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts. In 2018, the campaign will continue to improve sustainable recreation opportunities on Colorado’s Fourteeners through the development of new partnerships and capacity in order to increase the pace and scale of on-the-ground trail improvement projects.
In 2015, the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative (CFI) released peak report cards for Fourteeners based on extensive foot-by-foot trail surveys. Mount Elbert’s East Slopes route received an overall “F” grade and was among the three worst routes in the state. Based on the documented trail damage, surging visitation and opportunities to address needs through creative trail building approaches, the NFF, U.S. Forest Service and partners chose Mount Elbert as one of three initial statewide priorities for the Find Your Fourteener campaign. Quandary Peak’s East Ridge trail and the Devil’s Playground trail to Pikes Peak received similar low grades – yet visitation continues to increase.
Groups, including the CFI, the Rocky Mountain Field Institute, Colorado-based youth corps, and many other conservation and volunteer organizations, are collaborating in new ways to leverage organizational strengths and more strategically address the needs of Fourteeners across Colorado.
This collaborative partnership between the NFF, Forest Service, and Colorado outdoor organizations is a new model that will do more to keep Colorado’s beloved Fourteeners healthy and accessible as year-round popularity and use continues to increase dramatically.
“The newly established ‘Find Your Fourteener’ campaign demonstrates our shared values to protect and preserve Colorado’s iconic 14,000-foot mountains. The ongoing partnership will allow us to enhance visitors’ access by creating sustainable trails that are well-suited for the fragile alpine environment,” said Forest Service Fourteener Program Manager Loretta McEllhiney.
“The first year of the Find Your Fourteener campaign injected needed funding, fostered new approaches and generated considerable enthusiasm that allowed Colorado Fourteeners Initiative to significantly boost project work on two of Colorado’s highest-use 14ers—Mount Elbert and Quandary Peak,” said Executive Director Lloyd Athearn. “CFI and youth corps crews cut more than two miles of trail on Elbert and opened the first of three bypasses on the route. That allowed volunteers to begin the long, but necessary process of closing, stabilizing and restoring a particularly steep section of the old, user-trampled trail. The Quandary Peak trail benefitted from extensive work from trailhead to summit. And, new ways of engaging long-time partners and the enhanced enthusiasm about the project boosted CFI statewide volunteer trail stewardship days by 25 percent—much of which occurred on Elbert and Quandary—from what had been a previous all-time-record for the organization.”
Jennifer Peterson, Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Field Institute, noted, “Colorado’s 14,000 foot peaks continue to see increased use from visitors across the globe desperate to stand atop the summits of these iconic mountains. With this increased use comes increased degradation to the surrounding natural resources. Balancing outdoor recreation and resource protection is critical in these fragile areas, and can be achieved through the construction of sustainable summit routes that avoid sensitive areas and effectively define the usage corridor. Support from the NFF through the Find Your Fourteener campaign has not only increased the pace and scale of Fourteener work being done across the state, but has also provided the platform to support increased collaboration among several outdoor stewardship groups working together toward common goals.”
Rebecca Davidson, Director, Southern Rockies Field Program, shared the National Forest Foundation’s enthusiasm: “We are inspired by the collaborative and innovative ways that our partners have come together to increase accomplishments on Colorado’s Fourteeners. The Find Your Fourteener campaign is testing a new stewardship approach, where the outcome is added miles of sustainable trail maintained or constructed, increased capacity to restore degraded fragile alpine habitats, and getting more boots on the ground through volunteerism and collaborative efforts. The National Forest Foundation is proud to be a part of this monumental effort, and excited about the 2018 field season.”
About the National Forest Foundation
The National Forest Foundation promotes the enhancement and public enjoyment of the 193-million-acre National Forest System. By directly engaging Americans and leveraging private and public funding, the National Forest Foundation improves forest health and Americans’ outdoor experiences. The National Forest Foundation’s programs inform millions of Americans about the importance of these treasured landscapes. Each year, the National Forest Foundation restores fish and wildlife habitat, plants trees in areas affected by fires, insects and disease, improves recreational opportunities, and enables communities to steward their National Forests and Grasslands. Learn more at www.nationalforests.org.
More information specifically about the Find Your Fourteener campaign is available at www.nationalforests.org/fourteener.
About the U.S. Forest Service Colorado Fourteeners Program
The Colorado Fourteeners Program is a partnership program between the Forest Service, numerous nonprofit organizations and youth corps throughout Colorado. Forty-nine of the fifty-four Fourteeners in Colorado are located on or accessed from National Forest System lands. Our goal is to create sustainable trails that protect the natural integrity of the mountains so that nature-loving enthusiasts have an enjoyable hiking experience on their public lands for generations to come.
About the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative
Colorado Fourteeners Initiative has been working since 1994 to protect and preserve the natural integrity of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks through active stewardship and public education. To date CFI has constructed 31 sustainable routes on 28 peaks, engaged more than 15,000 days of volunteer trail stewardship, and educated almost 200,000 Fourteener hikers through on-mountain contacts and via CFI’s YouTube channel.
About the Rocky Mountain Field Institute
The Rocky Mountain Field Institute is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, dedicated to the conservation and stewardship of public lands in Southern Colorado. RMFI is committed to protecting and enhancing the ecological health of Southern Colorado’s land and water resources by completing projects focused on watershed restoration, forest health, and creating sustainable outdoor recreation opportunities. By prioritizing the involvement of community volunteers and youth, RMFI envisions a world where our work fosters vibrant and healthy natural systems that are respected and cared for by the public. RMFI actively educates and engages thousands of community volunteers every year through the completion of hands-on trail and restoration projects that help to protect and conserve Southern Colorado’s iconic and treasured public natural landscapes. RMFI works in a diversity of public land settings including urban parks and open spaces to Colorado’s 14,000 foot peaks in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.