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CO's Polis Joins Youth Groups on Continental Divide Trail Work

The Continental Divide Trail, authorized by Congress in 1978, is nearly 95 percent complete. (Xnatedawgx/Wikimedia Commons)
The Continental Divide Trail, authorized by Congress in 1978, is nearly 95 percent complete. (Xnatedawgx/Wikimedia Commons)
August 21, 2017

DENVER -- Congressman Jared Polis put in some volunteer time over the weekend on the Continental Divide Trail near Copper Mountain.

Saturday's event brought together the youth groups City WILD and Environmental Learning for Kids, along with volunteer trail stewards from the area, to do light maintenance and install new signs. Polis said keeping trails in good shape is important because public lands are a big economic driver in the state.

"Not just for the recreation, but also for all the businesses that they empower,” Polis said; "ranging from hospitality - hotels, motels, restaurants - to outfitters and supply companies, to guide companies, to manufacturing companies, that rely on our public lands."

Polis said Saturday's turnout underscores the broad-based support for public lands by Coloradans of all political stripes. Organizers said they hope the event will help build momentum for next year's 50th anniversary of the National Trails Act and the 40th anniversary of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail.

Teresa Martinez with the Continental Divide Trails Coalition, which sponsored Saturday's event, has been working to complete the buildout of the 3,100-mile trail that runs from Mexico to Canada. She said in the past ten years, the effort has moved from 65 percent complete to almost 95 percent.

"It really showcases one of the most important landscapes of the North American continent,” Martinez said. "The fact that we have this trail that people can access in various forms and fashions is pretty amazing. And that we also have volunteers that are willing to sustain it is equally amazing."

Polis said he plans to reintroduce the Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act, which would preserve more than 58,000 acres of wilderness and recreation lands in Summit and eastern Eagle Counties, including the internationally renowned Ten Mile Recreational Path.

"And we've been able to tailor the protection appropriate to each area to increase both the natural protections and the recreational value of areas like Ten Mile, and others,” Polis said.

Polis said he thinks there's been a vast under-investment in the nation's public lands and said with limited resources, it's just not possible to maintain trails and off-trail areas without volunteers.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO