Trails 2000 recently announced that it will build two new trails, Smokejumper’s Trail and a connection from Sugar Trail to Skyline Trail, during the last weeks of fall, following an environmental analysis passed by the Bureau of Land Management in September.
Smokejumper’s Trail, in honor of Joseph Pilpott, a BLM smokejumper from Durango who died in a 2013 avalanche, will start at the top of Skyline Trail and run north from Raider Ridge.
“We feel grateful and honored to be part of helping expand the Trails 2000 trail system. We feel like it’s a way to give back to our community, by helping create something lasting, as well as to remember and honor Joseph,” said Margo Philpott, Joseph Pilpott’s mother.
In 2014, Trails 2000 completed Sugar Trail, which connects Skyline Trail to Horse Gulch Road, but was unable to connect Sugar and Skyline because of a section of federal land located in the proposed trail area.
Trails on federal lands, owned by U.S. Forest Service and BLM, require a level of environmental analysis standardized by the National Environmental Policy Act. After Trails 2000 started the proposal process, Heidi McGrath, owner of Columbine Environment and friend of the Philpott family, was hired to oversee its completion.
“Environmental assessments are a lot of work and require analyzing various environmental impacts, from wildlife and plants to soils and recreation. It’s a time-consuming process and a bit arduous, especially for small nonprofits,” McGrath said in a news release. “I was excited to be involved in this project since I knew Joe and the Philpott family would love the trail.”
The analysis also included a cultural resource survey to assess the possibility that artifacts were located in the trail area. No artifacts were identified by the cultural study, which was donated by Denver-based ERO Resources.
The process of creating a new trail generally takes two to five years, and requires involvement from land managers and stakeholders, development and research, proposal and review, approval, trail building and final construction.
“The process is complex; it requires vision, strategy and a certain level of tenacity,” Trails 2000 board member Christina Rinderle said in a news release.
Trails 2000 announced plans to start trail building during late October, and is seeking volunteers to help with trail work. The Philpott family will install a commemorative sign in memory of Joseph Pilpott in November.
For more information, go to www.trails2000.org.