A new field operations center for the Colorado Trail Foundation is expected to break ground in March in Poncha Springs, just 10 miles from the halfway point of the 500-mile Colorado Trail.
Once complete, the new operations center will be used to store equipment and tools used by volunteers who serve as the primary stewards of the trail that stretches from Denver to Durango.
“The centrally located facility will solve an important problem for us,” said Bill Manning, executive director of the Colorado Trail Foundation.
“We have been storing equipment at the homes of volunteers near the Front Range, and that challenges our efficiency,” he said.
A 2,000-square-foot trailer storage building and a 1,500-square-foot shop, office and meeting building will be constructed near the intersection of U.S. 50 and U.S. 285 in Poncha Springs. There, the foundation will store eight trailers, a truck and trail maintenance equipment.
Storing the equipment in one place will help maintain it better and keep it in working condition longer, said Manning.
Fundraising efforts for the new field operations center are currently underway.
The Colorado Trail Foundation board of directors hopes to raise most of the money for the new facility through grants and large donations, internally generated funds and the sale of a cabin and land owned by the foundation near Lake City, said Manning.
Construction of two buildings on the site, the land and other improvements are expected to cost between $350,000 and $450,000, with an estimated annual operating cost of around $10,000.
If all goes well, the foundation hopes to have the facility complete by September or October, said Manning.
Brent Adams, a Chaffee County field operations manager for the Colorado Trail Foundation, will oversee operations at the new facility.
Looking ahead at the next 20 years, the Colorado Trail Foundation anticipates a majority of trail maintenance and construction will take place within 80 miles of the new facility, he said.
Work on middle sections of the Colorado Trail will consist of moving the trail away from current motorized sections and other regular maintenance.
“It makes very good sense to locate our field offices in Poncha,” said Manning.
The Colorado Trail Foundation has been the primary steward of the nonmotorized Colorado Trail since 1987. The trail is open to hikers, horseback riders and cyclists and travels the length of Chaffee County along the Sawatch Range.
In 2014 the addition of several reroutes formally linked a western route of the Colorado Trail to the Continental Divide Trail, creating a route called Collegiate West.
The trail more closely follows the Continental Divide and together with the existing Colorado Trail on the eastern flanks of the Collegiate Peaks created a 160-mile loop that encompasses 11 14,000-foot peaks between South Fooses Creek and Twin Lakes.
In 2016 the organization facilitated more than 650 volunteers who worked along the entire Colorado Trail, removing debris from water diversion structures, clearing downed logs and other maintenance projects.
Manning estimates that roughly 800 backpackers attempted a through-hike of the Colorado Trail in 2015 with about half completing the hike in its entirety.
“We need the support of many contributors and volunteers,” said Manning. “And after volunteering, you come away with having done something great.”
More information about the Colorado Trail is available at ColoradoTrail.org.