While the RMFI staff is out with volunteers working to maintain trails, restore impacted areas, and build buff physiques (in other words doing what we do best), trail-users often stop to chat and see what we’re doing. Here are a few of the questions we are often asked.
1. Q: Why are you closing this trail?! I’ve walked my dog on this trail for years!
A: There are a few reasons RMFI might be closing a trail. Often, the trail is a ‘rogue’ or ‘social’ trail that is user-created and not on the master plan for the park or open space. Trails on the master plan are most often planned by trail-building professionals and are aligned to shed water and tolerate heavy use. Rogue trails, on the other hand, are made by users repeatedly walking the same (unplanned) path until a trail forms, and as a result, the trails are not designed to manage water or be durable. A lot of rogue trails are also redundant, meaning that they are superfluous because they get people to the same places that planned trails do. Redundant trails allow humans to unnecessarily cut through habitat, resulting in animals being scared out of their homes and dining areas and plants being trampled. This is known as habitat fragmentation.
So, if RMFI is closing your favorite trail, it’s probably because the trail was redundant (causing habitat fragmentation) and/or it was unsustainable and was posing an erosion problem. Luckily, some of the trails RMFI closes will be re-routed and made more sustainable. If not, know that your favorite park or open space is now more sustainable and has better habitat for it’s non-human users.
2. Q: Why are you working on this section of trail when I’ve seen other sections that need the work so much more urgently!? Who decides what work you do first?
A: When RMFI begins work on a property, we discuss priorities with the land manager (i.e. the Forest Service, the City of Colorado Springs, El Paso County, etc.) and plan our work according to the sites they think are the most urgently in need of work. Because many of these properties are so well-loved, there is an infinite amount of work that could be done, so we have to prioritize some areas while leaving others for later. But don’t worry: the land managers have long-term plans for restoration and upkeep on the property, so they will often ask RMFI to return throughout the season and throughout the years to work our magic on different projects. For example, RMFI is currently working with the City of Colorado Springs to do some much-needed work on properties acquired through the City's Trails and Open Space (TOPS) tax. We will likely continue this project for the next five years, each year building on the work we did the previous season.
Once you start looking for areas that need a little RMFI love, you see them everywhere and you want them to get the attention they deserve. But you can rest easy knowing we probably have a plan for helping those places later. And if there’s a place that means a lot to you, look out for opportunities to volunteer there!
3. Q: Thanks so much for your work! Are you all volunteers out here?
A: RMFI has seven full-time field staff (and five amazing office staff) working our buns off to steward the properties where RMFI works, but we certainly can’t lift all that rock and shovel all that dirt by ourselves. That’s where volunteers come in! RMFI’s most valuable resource is the human power provided by the thousands of volunteers that work with RMFI every year. So no, we’re not all volunteers; there are always 2 or more paid professional RMFI staff members working with and guiding volunteers on all projects. Our volunteers are the lifeblood of the organization and certainly help make the work we do possible.