About 30 people attended a luncheon Thursday to learn more about Salida’s inclusion as a gateway community for the Continental Divide Trail.
The event was hosted by the Continental Divide Trail Coalition. One of the coalition’s main goals is to build strong trail communities, which includes gateway communities, Nicole Karem, coalition gateway community coordinator, said.
Gateway communities advocate for the trail and connect and protect it, Karem said.
The coalition was founded in 2012. It is funded through a variety of sources, including memberships, private grants, corporate partnerships and a partnership with the U.S. Forest Service to protect the trail.
Amanda Wheelock, coalition policy and communications manager, estimated that more than 100,000 people use the trail every year. About 400 miles of the Continental Divide Trail also follows the Colorado Trail.
Karem said the coalition likes to leave specifics about the relationship to the trail up to the individual communities.
Wheelock said Salida’s enthusiasm for the trail is a positive.
“The fact that we’re in this room is already such a good sign,” she said.
Salida also has a few trail angels who ferry hikers from town to the trailhead and vice versa, including Marilyn Bouldin and Chuck Deveney.
Wheelock said it’s critical to be able to shuttle people between town and the trailhead.
The Continental Divide Trail is a little wilder than the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, she said, so the coalition doesn’t want an overabundance of “trail angels.”
Wheelock said the coalition wants gateway communities to share ideas with each other.
A big challenge for the coalition is distance, she said, with 10 staff to cover 3,100 miles.
The coalition is a conservation organization, Wheelock said, not a recreation organization, so it is focused on the actual trail first and foremost.
There are 15 gateway communities along the trail, with five in Colorado: Salida, South Fork, Pagosa Springs, Steamboat Springs and Grand Lake.
Wheelock said the next three gateway communities will probably be Leadville, Lake City and Helena, Montana.