Crested Butte Conservation Corps looks toward relationship building
By Aimee Eaton
The Crested Butte backcountry will receive a little extra love this summer, as the Crested Butte Conservation Corps will hit the trails on June 1. The green light is largely due to $20,000 awarded to the program by the Mt. Crested Butte Town Council.
“With this money I can continue planning and keep pushing some of the other towns and groups to get involved,” said Dave Ochs, the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association’s executive director and the mastermind behind the Conservation Corps. “We’ve got something on our hands that we’re incredibly excited about and it’s happening because of the support of Mt. Crested Butte.”
The Conservation Corps is the newly formed stewardship arm of CBMBA. The group will be working alongside Mountain Manners and Peak Protectors—two backcountry conservation groups organized and funded through the Wildflower Festival—to care for trails, provide education to visitors in the valley, clean up garbage and advocate leave-no-trace ethics, and act as ambassadors for the upper valley’s public lands.
Working together, the CBCC, Mountain Manners and Peak Protectors plan to have groups working in the backcountry every day of the week. The CBCC will cover six days, with the other groups covering the seventh.
“Once we’re fully staffed we’ll have two crews of three people apiece,” said Ochs. “We’ve already hired the first crew and leader. Starting June 1 they’ll be working Thursday through Saturday.”
The group will be led by Matt Steinwand, an accomplished and capable trail builder who also has a long history of building positive relationships with the outdoors, said Ochs.
“This isn’t just about building more trails,” Ochs added. “It’s about making the best experiences for backcountry users and visitors. The CC is not any kind of ‘regulatory’ crew. They have no jurisdiction, have not been deputized, and the main goal is to make positive experiences and educate people as best they can.”
Mountain Manners and Peak Protectors are following much the same protocol, but will be focusing on hot spots that the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Crested Butte Land Trust and private property owners have cited as needing a little extra care.
“[These groups] have expressed interest in having the presence of the Peak Protectors, so we will work to distribute the volunteers in areas and at certain times of the season to maximize our reach and effectiveness,” said Sue Wallace, development director for the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival.
The decision by Mt. Crested Butte to support the Conservation Corps came at last week’s Town Council meeting. While there was some discussion by the council members about splitting the gift into two separate payments, or lowering the amount from the requested $20,000, town manager Joe Fitzpatrick assured the staff that there was no need.
“We can take the money from the parks budget,” said Fitzpatrick. “Twenty thousand is possible with the understanding that January sales tax came in above budget, February was above budget, March was above budget. We’re in a really good position and the cash is available now.”
With Fitzpatrick’s suggestion in hand, the councilors showed unanimous support for the CBCC and its mission. However, in their excitement about the corps and their role in making the program a reality, deputy clerk Tiffany O’Connell needed to remind the councilors to vote on the decision formally. The decision passed with all in favor.
“This needs to be done,” said Mt. Crested Butte mayor Todd Barnes. “It’s a great idea, and I hope that we can help the backcountry from being loved to death.”
In addition to support from the town of Mt. Crested Butte, the Conservation Corps is also working with 1% for Open Space, the Gunnison Valley OHV Alliance of Trail Riders (GOATS), High Country Conservation Associates, the Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association, the U.S. Forest Service and several other organizations. For more information about the CBCC, visit https://crestedbuttemountainbike.com/crested-butte-conservation-corps/.