The 18th annual Grand County National Public Lands Day took place Saturday, Sept. 29, and drew together a large crowd of volunteers from across Grand County and the state who devoted their time to the betterment of local public lands.
As the longest continually running National Public Lands Day in the country, Grand County's NPLD has proven to be one of the largest organized social gatherings in the county.
The event's main organizers were Headwaters Trail Alliance, Fraser Valley Partnership for Trails, the U.S. Forest Service Sulphur Ranger District, and the Bureau of Land Management, as well as an extensive list of donors all pulling together to make this NPLD one to remember.
With breakfast, lunch, dinner, live music, and free drinks, being provided by the event's generous donors, the day of volunteering quickly transformed into a celebration made up of trail users, river runners, and outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds.
A total of 237 volunteers participated in the event completing work on six different projects throughout Grand County.
Volunteers planted 200 lodgepole pine trees and 70 spruce trees in the Cutthroat Bay area and continued their work by picking up trash at the Green Ridge boat ramp, leaving the area clean and well vegetated for future users.
Another group of volunteers completed a large amount of work to Akima's Way Trail in Winter Park including: Cleaning up the trail, improving numerous switchbacks on the trail, and roughing in more than 5,500 feet of new trail.
Volunteers interested in improving roads for motor vehicle use helped to improve the Gilsonite Trail by installing a new 32 foot bridge, 45 feet of buck and rail fence, installing two new signs, re-vegetating 150 feet of trail, and reconstructing three-quarters of a mile of the trail.
The renowned Colorado River cleanup drew a a large group of volunteers who removed more than 27 bags of trash including some old railroad ties from the river and its banks.
After a satisfying day of hard work, the volunteers returned to Camp Chief Ouray to celebrate with live music, compliments of Andy Strauss of Hunker Down, a local bluegrass band, and free drinks provided by New Belgium Brewing and a number of local donors.
The afterparty was decorated with the utmost attention to detail by the Girl Scouts of the Grand County Snow Shoe unit, giving the party a very appropriate mountainesque ambiance as prizes were raffled off to the crowd of volunteers.
A Christmas tree was erected as part of the celebration, which at first seemed a little out of place, until it was revealed that Colorado was chosen to be the harvest site of this year's Capitol Tree. The tree will be harvested from the White River National Forest and erected on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol, an American tradition since 1964.
The ornaments on the tree at the NPLD afterparty, which were artfully crafted by the girls of the Snow Shoe unit, will be packaged and sent to Washington D.C. to adorn the Capitol Tree for 2012. This year's theme for the Capitol Tree is "Celebrating Our Great Outdoors."
As it might be difficult to locate a tree that has not succumbed to the pine beetle epidemic, I would like to offer a suggestion of donating one of our many Mardi Gras bead- and undergarment-covered trees from the ski resorts to show D.C. how Coloradans really celebrate being in the outdoors. Just a thought.
To add to the excitement and success of the event, President Obama signed a proclamation declaring the Saturday of Sept. 29 as National Public Lands Day saying: "Cities and communities across our country will join together to restore the lands and waters we share, and families nationwide will explore the natural splendor that stretches from our Atlantic shores to the Pacific's rocky coasts."
The proclamation went on to say: "As we celebrate this National Public Lands Day, let us reflect on the lands and waters that so deeply enrich our experience, and let us renew our commitment to protecting them in years to come."
This is the fourth year in a row that National Public lands Day has received a presidential proclamation.
After all was said and done, Grand County was left in pristine condition with some new improvements to its plethora of outdoor amenities thanks to the hard work and dedication of the more than 200 volunteers who turned out Saturday.
With a presidential proclamation, the volunteers who participated in Grand County's NPLD can walk, run, drive, and float the lands and waters of the county with their heads held high knowing they have done their part to preserve the area's activities for generations to follow.