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Wheel Club, Forest Service work to improve trail system

Small communities run on the strength of people stepping up to the plate to fill a gap.

For the past several months, members of the Wolf Creek Wheel Club, a local road and mountain bike club, have been helping the Pagosa Ranger District in the implementation of improvements to the Turkey Springs Trails System.

The trails in Turkey Springs have come to be known as a backyard park for those living in the area. However, according to Paul Blackman, parks and recreation, trails and wilderness supervisor for the Pagosa Ranger District, the trails have never been promoted because they were not incorporated into the Forest Service trail system.

Now, thanks to the Turkey Springs Trail Management Plan, they are, and thanks to the volunteer effort and support of the Wolf Creek Wheel Club, the trails are on their way to being properly marked to enhance the enjoyment of those using these popular amenities.

“They were instrumental in refining the proposal (for the Turkey Springs Trail Management Plan),” Blackman said of the members of the Wheel Club.

Blackman said that, over the past few years, the Forest Service has been working on and off developing the Turkey Springs Trail System. Not only does the plan incorporate trails already in use into the system, but it creates new motorized and non-motorized trails for hiking, mountain biking and the use of ATVs.

“We adopted the trails that were used and constructed four new mountain bike trails,” Blackman said.

The most recent contribution from the Wheel Club, Blackman said, was the part it played in the award of a Parks, Recreation, Open Space and Trails (PROST) grant for over $4,000 from Archuleta County to help pay for signs for old, adopted and newly-built trails in the Turkey Springs area. The group worked with Blackman to write the grant by designing a signage plan and sign design, and Blackman said it was the Wheel Club that actively pursued the grant. And once awarded, it was club members who went out to the Turkey Springs area and hiked into the back country to install the signs.

“They got 30 signs installed in a matter of a few days,” Blackman said, adding, “That’s not an easy task. They have to hike into the backcountry, carrying in tools.”

More than 20 volunteers from the wheel club and the Pagosa Springs Outdoor Club completed this the day before Pagosa’s first big snow.

“I’m really proud of the group’s work,” Blackman said, “It’s a good partnership.”

Wheel Club member Diane Gutman said the club was informed of the grant opportunity by a friend and decided to give it a shot, because the entire group thought it was a good idea.

“Anyone who’s rode out there on a mountain bike has encountered people lost out there,” Gutman said. Because the trails in Turkey Springs have been listed on the website, people from around the world interested in beginner to intermediate mountain biking find their way to the trails. Gutman said it’s not uncommon for these people to get lost.

“Even people familiar with the area get lost,” Gutman said, adding, “I think these signs will help.”

Gutman said she is eager to ride the trails with the signs, and for other people to have the chance.

There is still much to be completed in the Turkey Springs Trail Management Plan. Blackman explained that the Forest Service is implementing the plan in phases. Next year, all the signs will be put up at the trailheads, parking areas will be improved, and some trails will be rerouted. Then, over the next few years, Blackman said the concentration will shift to motorized trails, with help from the Pagosa Trail Riders ATV club.

“The big next thing will be applying for a grant from Colorado Parks and Wildlife to fund more extensive construction for ATV trails,” Blackman said. In the Devil and Horse Mountain area, the analysis for the trail management plan calls for six miles of new trails to connect existing loops that aren’t currently connected.

“This will enable people to make longer and more diverse trips,” Blackman said, adding, “This is a real important part of the plan, and we’re looking to the state for funding. We’ll be using machinery, instead of the hand work that we have been doing. It’s expensive, but we’re very excited to move into these next steps, but we don’t have the money in our regular appropriations.”

In addition to applying for this grant during the winter months, Blackman will be making a new map of the area that will be available by next summer. By then, people can expect a more easily navigable Turkey Springs trail system, complete with signs, trailheads and maps.

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