Like most parks, Colorado National Monument has a lot of trails that can use some work. In 2009 the park had its first trail crew in decades, and visitors can already enjoy the results of some projects that were ready for pick and shovel.
The park's new trail crew was established with funds made available from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). There's been some debate around the country about whether dollars from that program are serving any practical purpose, but at least in this park, tangible results are already underway.
New trail crew employees were recruited from the local communities of Grand Junction and Fruita, including several from Mesa State College. Conrad Clements, formerly on Rocky Mountain National Park’s trail crew, was recruited as the park's new trail crew work leader. He provided critical leadership and hands-on training as the crew began work.
Brian Bergsma, Grand Teton National Park’s trails foreman, surveyed the park’s trails and helped develop a work plan, and experienced trails workers from other parks came to the park to offer additional training during the summer and to work alongside the new trail crew.
The crew’s primary focus was on sections of three trails:
• Monument Canyon Trail received major rehabilitation work on a half-mile of trail, including over 50 steps/retaining checks, 11 drains/water bars, and over 170 feet of retaining wall – all constructed with native stone.
• CCC Trail now has 41 new steps/retaining checks, 69 feet of single tier wall, and 38 feet of multi-tier wall with native stone.
• Devil’s Kitchen Trail benefited from one new stone and seven new dirt water bars. Stone drains pans were incorporated into the structures.
The arrival of winter signals the end of trail work in some higher elevation parks, but that frees up experienced help from those locations to help in parks such as Colorado National Monument.
In November, the park’s crew was augmented by trail crew workers who formerly worked on Grand Teton National Park’s trail crew. Together these two crews tackled one of the park’s most challenging trail projects—rebuilding the very popular Artist Point Overlook Trail that provides spectacular views of Monument Canyon and the park’s monoliths. The ARRA crew received valuable on the job training by the former Teton trail crew members as a part of this project.
The trail to the Artist Point viewing platform is approximately 80 feet from the overlook parking area adjacent to Rim Rock Drive. The trail descends downward in very steep rocky terrain. The stone retaining curbing at the overlook parking area built by the CCC had been destroyed in a few places and consequently allowed water to pour onto the trail and erode it.
First, repairs to the curbing were made by the historic preservation crew from Bandelier National Monument, led by Walt Morris, an expert stone mason. Then the combined ARRA and Teton crew tackled the rebuilding of the Artist Point Trail, constructing 29 steps/retaining checks, six water bars, 53 feet of single tier retaining wall, and 20 feet of multi-tier retaining wall, all constructed from native stone.
There's still enough work to keep a trail crew busy for years, but 2009 provided a great start.
Ready to begin planning a hike at Colorado National Monument? You'll find information about some of the area's most popular trails on the park website.