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Volunteers needed for Saturday trail project

This Saturday (June 18) from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., members and friends of the Weminuche Audubon Society (WAS), Southwest Conservation Corps (SWCC) and Navajo State Park (NSP) will continue work to improve and extend an existing nature trail at the north end of Navajo Reservoir.

To finish the task, however, they’re asking for some assistance from volunteers who enjoy hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, or simply pitching in to protect and enhance vital wildlife habitat.

Two weeks ago, nearly 50 local, regional and out-of-state volunteers made significant headway in redefining the path from a footbridge over the Piedra River to Narrow Gauge Junction — an existing reservoir access point and parking area less than a mile from the bridge.

The footbridge, incidentally, is part of a watchable wildlife viewing area on the east side of Colo. 151, just south of where the highway crosses the Piedra River. There, beyond a small parking area, hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians find a covered gazebo, some interesting and informative interpretive signs and the bridge leading to the nature trail on the far side of the river.

While the June 4 work focused on pathway enhancements from the bridge to Narrow Gauge Junction, Saturday’s improvements will include trail construction from “the junction” to Deer Run (0.7 miles), another of seven total access point/parking areas (and one campground) on the northeast side of the reservoir, all of which are readily accessible by County Road 500 (CR 500).

In some areas, work will involve construction of rock retaining walls, and erection of half-a-dozen additional interpretive signs at strategic sites along the trail. Organizers plan to install assorted nest boxes and roosting platforms in or near riparian areas, affording various raptors, waterfowl and songbirds vital resting and reproductive habitat.

As on June 4, WAS will provide all necessary tools, gloves and drinking water, while Cowboy Catering will prepare a fine lunchtime meal at Narrow Gauge Junction. State park officials will again afford vital project strategy, as young and enthusiastic SWCC members continue rolling up their sleeves and performing all manner of crucial physical labor.

SWCC is a nonprofit organization with regional offices in Durango and Salida, Colo., Tucson, Ariz. and Acoma, N.M. Since 1998, the corps has achieved significant conservation work throughout the tri-state region, as young-adult corps members earn a living allowance, while learning valuable work and life skills. To date, their exemplary contribution to this particular project has proven invaluable.

Though this Piedra River Trail project will greatly expand and enhance public wildlife viewing opportunities near the reservoir, Saturday’s effort will not be all work and no play. At strategic intervals, Audubon Colorado Southwest Regional Director Becky Gillette will discuss the history and birds of Navajo Lake, as local outdoor enthusiast Jason Stuck offers another of his fascinating wildlife tracking sessions. Area resident and railroad buff John Porco will speak on Arboles narrow-gauge railroad history, as state park rangers and volunteers answer questions regarding the park and its diverse amenities.

On Saturday, volunteer participants should park and register at Narrow Gauge Junction just off CR 500, a mile from Colo. 151. Dress for a day outdoors, including a hat, sunscreen and insect repellant, and join in creating an amazing, easily-accessible environmental gem for all to enjoy. In the process, you’ll protect and enhance vital wildlife habitat for years to come.

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