West Elk Multi-Use Club — History and Future

In 2002, the West Elk Multi-Use Club was formed to mark, maintain and promote trails in the White River National Forest North of Rifle, Silt, and New Castle for horseback riding, hiking, biking, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and dog sledding. The Club worked with the White River National Forest Regional District to put in a 3-loop winter trail system, approximately 10 miles in length, starting on Forest Road 819, 16 miles North of New Castle on the Buford Road. The Club has also organized a number of volunteer projects that have cleared horseback trails going from Rifle Mountain Park to the Triangle Park area connecting to an existing network of pack trials on the Flat Tops.

The Club is a volunteer organization, supported by donations and a $15 voluntary user fee. Since its inception, the Club has been supported by 82 donors giving between $250 and $800 per year. These donations have covered the cost of maintaining the winter ski trail. While most of the donors are from the Towns of New Castle and Silt, each municipality from Parachute to Carbondale is represented on their donor list. A very small group of dedicated volunteers have accomplished a lot in this group’s 7 years of existence, but their success has put strain on the organizational capacity as user numbers continue to grow.

The National Forest in Garfield County has long been a key recreational amenity for residents and visitors alike. Multi-Use is a key management principle for the Forest Service, but the reality of tightened budgets has pushed the responsibility for National Forest trail systems to user groups, like West Elk Multi-Use Club, doing the building, marking, and maintaining of trails with Forest Service oversight.

Building and maintaining trail systems takes an organized effort to procure and manage the financial resources to support the volunteer labor, as well as the expenses incurred by the organizational entity itself. Transitioning from a grass roots volunteer group to the
formally organized, non-profit corporate entity necessary to support the group’s mission year after year is a critical and essential move for the long term viability of this effort.

In 2006, the Club was required to carry insurance which more than doubled their expense load. A record snowfall winter last year accentuated the fact that grooming the cross country trail system requires equipment designed for that task because personal snowmobiles previously used don’t stand up to the task in the long run. These are the financial realities that this organization needs to address to continue the fine work that has already been accomplished.

Here’s how we plan on making this transition happen:

1) Raise awareness of our trail system through press exposure, inclusion in trail guides and publishing a brochure with a trail map to distribute locally.

2) Increase the Board of Directors from 4 to 8 people. The increased size allows this volunteer Board to delegate tasks more effectively. All the tasks, from fund raising to volunteer coordination, can be accomplished more effectively with twice the people addressing them.

3) Broaden financial support by reaching out to entities that would have an interest in supporting the regional recreational amenities addressed by their mission.

4) Become a non-profit corporation or align the group with a non-profit organization to allow them to apply for grants from multiple entities that fund trail systems.

West Elk Ski Trail Map (click on image for a printable map)

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