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New Non-Profit Seeks to Preserve, Build Upon GMF Trails Legacy

Ute Pass LOVES trails! And though the name has changed, you may recognize some of the faces who make up a new nonprofit group in the area, the Friends of Ute Pass Trails. The Board of Directors includes trailblazers Rob Schillinger and Kathleen Morrow, long-time area residents who participated in building Green Mountain Fall's Catamount Trail almost 25 years ago. In fact, the group's 16 Directors combine for over 150 years experience building and maintaining the area's hiking trails.

Dedicating Mount Dewey trail upgrade during the 2022 Green Box Summer Solstice hike.

The legacy of early trekkers and horseback riders, GMF's trails were mainly eroded gullies and social paths when Dick Bratton settled in GMF in the early 1980s. A recently retired Air Force officer, Dick's civil engineering background, organizational skills, and family heritage in the forestry industry combined to lead him to envision and coordinate the construction of hiking routes around GMF to link the waterfalls (Thomas Trail) and develop a route up to South Catamount Reservoir (Catamount Trail). Over 30 years, the network expanded to the over 12 miles of trails enjoyed by local residents and regional visitors today.

Residents and visitors enjoy more than 12 miles of trails in the Ute Pass area.

For over a decade, Dick chaired the Town of GMF Trails Committee which fostered community participation in building and maintaining the trail system. Two years ago, a GMF Mayor sought a new direction, establishing today's Parks, Recreation, and Trails Advisory Board, a smaller group with larger scope. That decision left trail maintenance unaddressed at a time of unprecedented trail use and hiker visitation during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Constructing the new Pittman trail on Red Butte that leads hikers to the Turrell Skyspace.

Dick Bratton recruited former Trail Committee members, full-time GMF residents, and summertime community members to establish a 16-member Board of Directors for Friends of Ute Pass Trails, with the mission "to advocate for and support a system of safe and sustainable hiking trails for public use in the Ute Pass area." Formally established in 2021, the Friends also plan to foster stewardship and education related to trails and trails use. Many Friends Directors also serve as GMF Trail Ambassadors, welcoming hikers to GMF and providing useful trail information during busy summer weekends.

Dick passed on 18 months ago, but he laid the foundation for the future of hiking trails in the area. "We stand on the shoulders of a local giant in trail construction and community leadership. Preserving and expanding Dick's legacy is a big motivator for many of us who recognize the impact he made in our community," says Friends President Rocco Blasi.

He notes that the 16 Directors have a mix of experience, but their interest and enthusiasm for trails is high. Their first year in operation saw the Friends guide and mentor an Eagle Scout trail building project on Red Butte and manage a local multi week trail project performed in GMF by the Mile High Youth Corps.

Dick Bratton, father of the hiking trail network around GMF

Such projects prevent the trails - a true community asset - "from being loved to death," according to Blasi. "Many of us moved here because of the trails and the unique access to the outdoors. Many volunteers want to give back to the community and preserve something that gives them great joy and purpose. It's my therapy," says Blasi.

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