REPRINTED FROM THE GAZETTE:
Colorado Springs (March 31, 2019): Work on trail connectivity, a key component of the North Cheyenne Cañon Park Master Plan, is underway. A trail building/maintenance crew from the Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI) has begun working on one of the park’s critical links, the new Powell Connector Trail.
“It’s identified in the Master Plan as a high priority,” said Joe Lavorini, program director of RMFI, a Colorado Springs-based nonprofit dedicated to the conservation and stewardship of public lands in southern Colorado. “A trail-building company punched the trail through in January, and the Friends of Cheyenne Cañon have us in mind to help with some of the finishing work there.”
The Powell Connector links the park’s Upper Columbine Trail near Helen Hunt Falls with the Upper Gold Camp Road parking lot, located near the intersection of Gold Camp and High Drive.
“It’s a real vital connection, a great amenity for users navigating through the park,” Lavorini said.
To complete the project, RMFI has scheduled nine to 10 work days, including two days — Saturday and Sunday — when volunteers will be called on to lend a helping hand. Lavorini expects the volunteer crews to consist of about 15 to 20 workers. A “stewardship crew” of paid RMFI crew members will work on the trail three days prior to the volunteers showing up and will put on the final touches after the volunteers are done.
The Powell Connector is not an especially long trail, only about 1,500 feet, but it promises to be a moderately tough task — workers will be contending with fairly steep slopes and loose gravel.
According to Lavorini, the finishing work will mostly consist of building retaining walls and switchbacks, putting in fencing and creating some drainage control that includes constructing a culvert to make sure the trail isn’t washed away.
“It can be very challenging,” he said, “but we have a plan in place and are pretty confident in it.”
He noted that several social trails have popped up in the area because park users have found a connecting trail there to be especially convenient.
The Cheyenne Cañon Master Plan, which replaces the 1999 plan, was created under the direction of the Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department with input from more than 350 area residents. It’s designed to serve as a road map for the park for the next 10 to 15 years, and among its goals is the creation of an additional 19 to 35 miles of trails, some to be constructed by RMFI.
RMFI has a paid staff of 19 members, 12 of whom are classified as field staff, overseeing and providing supervision and technical expertise to teams of volunteers. The organization is involved in numerous trail-building and maintenance programs, primarily in the Pikes Peak region but also in southern Colorado and Utah. Projects include work on Pike Peak’s Barr Trail and Devil’s Playground Trail, Garden of the Gods, Bear Creek Water Shed and Red Rock Canyon Open Space. The group also plans to work with the U.S. Forest Service on watershed improvements in the region, treating forests so that when wildfires occur they will burn in a more natural way, Lavorini said.
Residents who volunteer this weekend to work on the Powell Connector Trail in North Cheyenne Cañon can expect to take on a variety of tasks, including moving building materials, shoveling and excavating soil, using pickaxes and mattocks, moving rocks, building fences and digging post holes.
“RMFI crews will be doing similar work right next to the volunteers,” Lavorini said, “but maybe sometimes stepping back to see the big picture, making sure we have a good objective lined up for the day and making sure tools and materials are where they need to be so we can be effective with everyone’s time.”
Most of the funding for the work has been generated by the Friends of Cheyenne Cañon (FOCC), with a significant contribution from Bristol Brewing Company, which has hosted fundraising events.
When the work is completed, RMFI crews will do additional restoration in other areas of North Cheyenne Cañon, Lavorini said.
“We’re also going to conduct a series of training sessions with The Friends of Cheyenne Cañon. We have the technical expertise and they have a lot of eager volunteers. It will be an exclusive opportunity for the Friends,” he said.
Lavorini also credits FOCC for its continued support of conservation and improvement efforts in North Cheyenne Cañon.
“They’ve done some amazing work at fundraising, planning events and coordinating with the city to make sure that gem of a park is taken care of,” he said. “It’s really exciting to be partnering with them this year.”
Volunteer workdays on the Powell Connector Trail are scheduled for 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For more information or to sign up to volunteer, contact Molly Mazel, RMFI volunteer and partnership coordinator, at 471-7736 Ext. 4# or [email protected].
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