Friends of Browns Canyon and the Bureau of Land Management participated in trail building Sept. 17 for National Public Lands Day. Around 25 volunteers completed a 500- to 700-foot reroute from the current Ruby Mountain parking area to the existing Turret Trail at the entrance to Browns Canyon National Monument. The goal of the reroute was to move the trail off private land and to prepare for an upcoming parking lot renovation. The new trailhead will soon be at the southeast corner of the existing parking area.

Volunteers also worked to prevent further washout along the first steep ascent on the trail. Crews built rock barriers to divert water off the trail and stabilized existing drainages to slow erosion. The plan was to create a more sustainable trail and increase stability for horseback users. That trail work complements a project under way by Southwest Conservation Corps. The SCC reroute is also moving trail from private property and making the trail more scenic, said Friends of Browns Canyon board member Michael Kunkel. That 1¼-mile reroute is planned for completion this fall.
Cora Whisenhunt and Bryce Hofmann from the BLM’s Royal Gorge Field Office led the workday from the land manager’s side. Kunkel, Executive Director Keith Baker and Board President Beverly Kaiser represented Friends of Browns Canyon. The day’s objectives were completed by lunchtime, a few hours ahead of schedule.

With Browns Canyon’s National Monument designation, the group’s role is changing. Now the main purpose of the organization is “trail work, projects, activities and management,” Kaiser said. Friends of Browns Canyon will soon begin aiding the U.S. Forest Service, BLM and Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area in completing the resource management plan (RMP) for the monument. “We want to pull together citizen involvement,” said Kaiser, “to give our 2 cents on how the monument should be managed.” The plan is estimated to take 3 years to complete.

Baker said the next major project for Friends of Browns Canyon will be the expansion of a parking area near Turret to accommodate horse trailers. “Major projects are expected as an outgrowth of the RMP.” Friends of Browns Canyon’s mission is supporting the public land agencies in increasing access to the monument. Baker said the goal is not necessarily to increase the number of users, but to “increase the quality of experience.”

Carla Rogers from the BLM’s national operations center in Denver joined the workday as well. She said she came out to enjoy the beautiful day and contribute to the monument. At lunch she explained the RMP’s public commenting process, stating it would probably run from November to January. She reiterated that the plan would probably take 3 years to bring the BLM, U.S. Forest Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife to a cohesive plan.

Anyone interested in staying informed on public commenting information can email blm_co_brownscanyon@blm.gov.

Adapted from an article by Tyler Grimes from the Oct. 7, 2016, edition of The Mountain Mail.