Members of the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps joined Friends of Wilderness on the Medicine-Bow/Routt National Forest to build a turnpike through a wilderness wetland. The project was one of more than a dozen sponsored by NWSA and the USFS.
Friends of Wilderness in Steamboat Springs is small but mighty. With just 45 volunteers, they ensure that fallen trees are cleared by hand from popular trails in the Mt. Zirkel, Sarvis Creek, and Flattops Wilderness areas, a massive area. They also patrol trails to help educate visitors about the wilderness and the hundreds of lakes and miles of trails in the area.
Mt. Zirkel was part of the original Wilderness Act, so this year the Friends of Wilderness are celebrating its 50th anniversary in a big way.
Earlier this month the Friends group took seven young people deep into the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness to help save a wetland meadow that was draining across a trail, forcing hikers off the trail and causing destruction to the fragile ecosystem.
Over a four day stretch, the young members of the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps set timbers and stones to build a 165-foot turnpike that should keep hikers’ boots dry and allow the wetland to recover.
“It was a big project,” exclaimed Win Dermody, FOW member. “We weren’t sure the young people were going to be able to finish. But on the second day, one of the kids had the idea to start at the end of the turnpike and work backwords, meeting at the middle – sort of like the Union and Central Pacific Railroads. That gave them the incentive to get the job done.”
The project was sponsored by the National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance and the USFS. It was one of more than a dozen projects underway nationwide to get young people onto their public lands and to celebrate wilderness through stewardship.
Prior to the turnpike build, Friends of Wilderness sponsored a special public presentation about the Wilderness Act, with readings by Elaine Dermody (a founder of NWSA and of FOW), city council members and others. Several signposts within the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness were repaired or replaced.
In early September, FOW will host three movie nights in Steamboat Springs to celebrate Wilderness. The celebration centerpiece will be a wilderness walk on September 7.