Give the national forest trails you use a little love

Volunteers sought to help with projects on National Public Lands Day

By Cindy Brown
For The Taos News
Posted 9/19/19

Taos is surrounded by extraordinary public lands in the forests of the high country and the mesas near the Río Grande. The Carson National Forest covers 1.5 million …

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Give the national forest trails you use a little love

Volunteers sought to help with projects on National Public Lands Day

Posted

Taos is surrounded by extraordinary public lands in the forests of the high country and the mesas near the Río Grande. The Carson National Forest covers 1.5 million acres and the Bureau of Land Management has another 594,000 acres. In September, there will be two opportunities to celebrate public lands and help improve areas of the Carson National Forest at the same time - as part of National Public Lands Day, Sept. 28.

With so much land comes the responsibility of caring for it. Public agencies do their best with small staffs and many demands. Volunteers have become an important part of their maintenance efforts, with local groups and individuals helping to maintain trails on our forest and desert lands.

"This is an opportunity to meet the stewards of public lands and get to work side by side with them," said Eric Garner, the recreation, lands and wilderness program manager for the Carson National Forest. "We get to roll up our sleeves and work together. We may get a little dirty working out there, but it is fun. It's important to celebrate our land and remember that not everyone has access to public lands."

Eagle Rock Lake project

The first event will be held at Eagle Rock Lake in Questa on Saturday (Sept. 21) from 9 a.m. to noon. It will include a Fish Fiesta and an opportunity to make ornaments for the 2019 United States Capitol Christmas Tree that will come from the Questa Ranger District. In addition to these activities, volunteers are needed to help clean up trash and maintain the trails and facilities around the lake.

According to Carson staff, there will also be opportunities to learn about fish and wildlife, fly-fishing, outdoor ethics, how to shoot a bow and become a junior ranger. As part of the Fish Fiesta, anyone lucky enough to catch a tagged fish during the event will win a prize.

This is a family-friendly event. Children under the age of 11 do not need a fishing license. All other fishing regulations apply. Loaner fishing poles are available for kids who need them.

The event at Eagle Rock Lake is sponsored by the Carson National Forest, New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, Trout Unlimited, the town of Taos, the village of Questa and local businesses.

Continental Divide Trail at Hopewell Lake

The Continental Divide Trail is now complete across the Carson National Forest. More than 100 acres of single-track trail has been built by close to 500 volunteers and youth corps members, some of them working many seasons on the trail. This section of trail has taken more than 10 years of planning, perseverance and work by the Carson and the Continental Divide Trail Coalition, along with other partners and volunteers.

Next Saturday (Sept. 28), there will be a celebration and opportunity for volunteers to put a few finishing touches on the trail in a second celebration of National Public Lands Day. In the morning from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., volunteers will work on the trail and collect trash. In the afternoon, there will be a cookout along with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. This will also be another opportunity to make ornaments for the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree.

"Getting over 100 miles of new single track built is a testament to dedication of the folks at the Carson, and so many groups like the Back Country Horseman, the Chama outdoors organization, college groups and volunteers from all over the country," said Amanda Wheelock, policy and communications manager for the Continental Divide Trail Coalition.

At least one through hiker on the 3,100-mile trail has said that the Carson section of the trail is his favorite without a doubt. "His excitement speaks to how special this section is," said Wheelock. "Fifteen years ago, there were only roads here; now there are 100 miles of new well-designed single track." She says that some people who hike the trail expect the whole state of New Mexico to be desert and are surprised to see that Northern New Mexico includes high alpine forests that are shimmering with golden aspen this time of year.

Efforts across the country

National Public Lands Day is the nation's largest, single-day volunteer effort for public lands, according to staff at the Carson. More than 175,000 volunteers and visitors celebrate the event at over 2,000 public land sites in all 50 states.

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