Outdoor volunteerism – a labor of love

June 3, 2024
Cami Brazell joins an RFOV project on Nancy's Path.

Cami Brazell joins an RFOV project on Nancy’s Path.

The volunteers who spent a recent weekday evening clearing brush from Nancy’s Path in Emma all shared at least one thing in common – a love of the outdoors.

It is the common denominator among generations of community members who have been showing up for nearly three decades to build and maintain trails, remove old fencing, pull thistles, restore landscapes – whatever is needed, really – under the leadership of Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers.

Each summer’s slate of RFOV projects puts crews to work on Pitkin County open spaces, national forest trails, community parks and more. In May, 26 people joined RFOV crew leaders to clear vegetation from Nancy’s Path, where heavy rains last summer washed out the trail. Open Space and Trails is building a new route alongside the eroded trough at the lower end of the path. As is customary with RFOV community projects, the work concluded with complementary dinner and beverages, as if toiling with handsaws and loppers wasn’t its own reward. (No kidding. For volunteers, the effort – and the result – is the appeal.)

Cami Brazell, vegetable apprentice at nearby Rock Bottom Ranch, was doing her first-ever project for RFOV, though she is no stranger to trail maintenance thanks to her work with the Conservation Corps.

“I really care about public lands, care about wilderness and natural habitat,” she said. “I think maintaining good trails encourages good land stewardship and good relationships between the land and the people who use it and recreate on it.”

Basalt-area resident Helen Carlsen has been volunteering with RFOV since the organization’s founding in 1995, when she saw a notice posted alongside a path. “I saw a little paper note…‘Do you use this trail? We’re doing a project next weekend,’ so I signed up,” she recalled. Carlsen has been a regular participant ever since.

These days, Carlsen said she often gravitates toward restoration work and fence removal – efforts that reflect her passions as an environmentalist and wildlife lover, she explained.

Liz Tucker of Carbondale, a self-described “horse person, hiker and cyclist,” was tackling dense vegetation along Nancy’s Path with long-handled loppers and plenty of muscle. RFOV attracts individuals with diverse interests but a common appreciation for the outdoors, she theorized.

“It brings all the different user groups together and we realize we all love the same thing,” Tucker said.

The Nancy’s Path project was the first of several RFOV community projects this summer that will take place in coordination with Pitkin County Open Space and Trails. In addition, RFOV has a full slate of projects on tap throughout the Roaring Fork and Crystal River valleys and beyond. Registration is required.

Other projects involving OST include Hunter Creek/Smuggler Mountain trail maintenance on June 8, removal of barbed-wire fence at Coke Ovens Open Space on Aug. 10, fence removal at Snowmass Falls Ranch on Aug. 17 and a return to Nancy’s Path for further maintenance work on Sept. 14.

– By Pitkin County Open Space and Trails

Liz Tucker cuts back brush along Nancy's Path.

Liz Tucker cuts back brush along Nancy’s Path.