The U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management brought out a nice spread of food and drinks and free pocket chainsaws as part of an appreciation event for public lands stewardship volunteers at the Buena Vista Community Center Oct. 24.
Salida Ranger District Recreation and Lands officer Ben Lara said the event, which brought out members of groups like GARNA, Friends of Browns Canyon and the Colorado Trail Foundation, would hopefully be a new yearly tradition.
Lisa Mellick, the volunteer and partnership coordinator with the Colorado Mountain Club, said that throughout the Upper Arkansas Valley, volunteer groups donated a total of 57,000 volunteer hours in 2019, the equivalent of $1.4 million in labor.
Fifty-seven thousand hours is about 6.5 years, by the way.
“The volunteers in the Arkansas Valley do an amazing amount of work,” Mellick said. ‘I always tell people, I think our area, the Arkansas Valley, is really unique in that we have really good relationships between public land agencies, volunteer groups and the general public. People really care about their public lands here.”
After a raffle of items donated by Absolute Bikes, Salida Mountain Sports and Tomken Machine and Eddyline Brewing Company including maps, hats, trailer hitches, free beer tickets and the previously mentioned chainsaws, the event’s organizers awarded Friends of Twin Lakes and Colorado Off Road Enterprises with special appreciation plaques.
“It feels like CORE has been around for a long time because of all the efforts they’ve done, but they’ve only been around for 3 years,” Lara said. “This year why we’re recognizing CORE, in addition to all the things they’ve done in years’ previous, is this year we had a huge snow year and all the snow transpired into having a lot of avalanches, and those avalanches brought a ton of material down on our road system … CORE really responded to all those calls and really helped us clear out all that avalanche debris. There was no way we could do that on our own.”