August 23, 2011 at 3:22 PM

Pull on Your Work Gloves: Maintaining Santa Fe’s Trails

"...volunteer groups are playing increasingly greater roles in recreational maintenance and restoration"

By Karen Denison

At Home Outdoors

Karen Denison is owner of Outspire Hiking and Snowshoeing guide service, a former biologist, and a shameless admirer of the outdoors.

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Do you hike, bike or otherwise enjoy trails around Santa Fe?  We have one of the highest number of non-profit groups per capita in the U.S., and several volunteer groups help maintain and even improve the trail systems we enjoy.

But don't we already pay for that as taxpayers on state and federal lands? Yes and no. Agency budgets are dwindling even as they must pay for things like fire fighting so volunteer groups are playing increasingly greater roles in recreational maintenance and restoration. If there's no payroll money, things like trail maintenance are the first to go. We have more and more folks routinely out on trails, and those trails can quickly show the usage.

If your thing is running or riding the Dale Ball trails, please consider helping out with the Trails Alliance of Santa Fe. They monitor trail conditions and hold regular trail workdays to fix erosion or wear problems.  Work "days" are usually a couple of hours on trail, and anyone in reasonable health can help.  For more information see  http://trailsallianceofsantafe.org/.

At the Santa Fe National Forest, we are blessed with a volunteer coordinator who does just that -- bless her heart, and no easy task. Jennifer Sublette goes through the painful process of the qualifying paperwork for trail-building and trail maintenance (new trails require clearance from wildlife biologists, archaeology specialists, professional trail engineers and others, while other projects require some consultation), orders any needed materials or supplies, and alerts her list of potential volunteers with a schedule. You can get on that list by emailing her at jasublett@fs.fed.us.  Upcoming is a work weekend scheduled for the Porvenir Campground and trail to Hermit's Peak (Las Vegas side of Pecos Wilderness) for Sept. 24-25.  Many hands make lighter work and there's gratification in seeing a nice stretch of improved trail.

New Mexico Volunteers for the Outdoors are just that, and do projects all over the state. To get more done, especially on more remote projects, they often have overnight camps. They're based in Albuquerque, but do plenty in our area.  See more on their website  http://www.nmvfo.org/.

REI, Backcountry Horsemen of New Mexico, Fat Tire Society, Trout Unlimited and lots of other local groups are also active and help organize particular projects. Even if you can't use a shovel, these groups could all use a helping hand at other things like posting flyers and getting the word out about projects.

Volunteering has been a great way for me to meet some wonderful, knowledgeable outdoor folks.  Although the regular work season is winding down, see if you can pitch in -- it's been a rough summer for the outdoors and you could help!

Photo caption: Work crew from Trails Alliance of Santa Fe repairing a section of the Dale Ball trail

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