Steve Beggs moved to town with his family in 2009. One factor in choosing the home they bought, he said, was the great access to local trail systems. Their home is a quarter mile from an access point to trail systems in Ridgeline Open Space in The Meadows.
“We use the trails every single day,” the Castle Rock resident said.
About a year ago, Beggs and his wife were enjoying a bike ride along the trails when they rounded a corner and saw a familiar group.
Members of the Ridgeline Wranglers, a volunteer organization that maintains the trails, were fast at work on one of their monthly outings. Beggs, knowing the trail was too wet for them to use that day, guessed what came next.
“I thought, `Uh oh, we’re in trouble,’ ” he said with a smile.
The volunteers gave them a quick scolding, but then recruited Beggs into the group. He’s been a member ever since. His wife and children also join the volunteers on occasion.
Volunteers help out city crew
The story still gets a laugh from Lisa Sorbo, the town’s Parks, Open Space and Trails program volunteer coordinator. Sorbo started the Ridgeline Wranglers eight years ago after residents began reporting poor trail conditions.
“Since I started, the amount of soft-surface trail that we have has tripled,” Sorbo said of Castle Rock.
Maintaining an ever-growing trail system was more than Castle Rock’s maintenance staff of 14 people could reasonably handle, Sorbo said.
“We just don’t have enough manpower to cover every mile of soft-service trail by ourselves,” she said.
So, she sought a solution.
Sorbo brought the dilemma to Castle Rock staff, who reviewed the trail damage, namely erosion, and determined only simple repairs were needed. Sorbo got the green light to recruit as volunteers the residents who’d reported the problems.
“I give them all the credit,” she said. “They were really the ones who identified the problem and asked us to come up with a solution.”
What began as a group of about five people has today grown to one of approximately 100 individuals. They pick one Saturday a month and spend three hours searching out trail damage and making necessary repairs. Sometimes eight volunteers show up, sometimes closer to 20.
By being involved, recruits like Beggs have come to learn what creates trail damage.
Common problems facing trail systems are overgrowth of foliage, water erosion or misuse by trail visitors. Examples include cutting corners, which widens the path, or as Beggs will tell, using trails when they are muddy, which creates rutting.
But Beggs isn’t alone.
Matt Curtis, who uses the trails for running, is in his fourth year volunteering with Ridgeline Wranglers. His involvement turned into a learning experience, he said. He can now look at trail damage and know what caused it.
“It’s been really eye-opening,” Curtis said, “because it gives you a perspective on how much work has to go into keeping the trails as nice as they are.”
Giving back to community
Curtis, also a Castle Rock resident, said he doesn’t mind the time and effort. To him, the work is rewarding. It’s gratifying to use the trails and know he personally helped keep them nice.
Ryan Osborne, one of the Ridgeline Wrangler’s first crew leaders, said that mentality holds group members accountable.
“You’re not going to go out and ride if the trail is muddy and tear it up if you just spent Saturday cleaning it up,” he said.
Curtis called Castle Rock’s trail systems a huge asset, and Osborne knows just why that is.
“It provides just a little bit of calm, a little bit of quiet,” he said.
Osborne says they see parents running the trails while pushing a stroller, they see deer bedding down, or sometimes, they see hikers who packed a picnic to enjoy at one of the trail vantage points.
“It really gives everybody a place to go be,” he said.
For crew leaders like Osborne, the town provides training through Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, an organization that partners with conservation and land agencies to generate a volunteer workforce in the state. There they learn how to identify problems on the trails and the proper fixes. They then guide other volunteers through the process.
The program helps keep Castle Rock’s Ridgeline trails as one of the local assets its residents have come to love. Without the Ridgeline Wranglers, Curtis, Beggs and Osborne expect trails would be in poorer shape — and cost the town money.
“A lot of the users, especially at Ridgeline, are really passionate about the trail,” Sorbo said. “A lot of them want to give back.”
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