Recreationists now have year-round access to some of the trails around Rico thanks to Rico Trails Alliance stewardship.

(Courtesy photo)

Since its establishment less than two years ago, Rico Trails Alliance (RTA) has accomplished a lot. Founded to promote local and regional non-motorized trails systems in and around Rico, RTA has held a number of events, including group rides and fundraisers; entered into volunteer trail work agreements with the U.S. Forest Service and conducted trail work days; purchased a new snowmobile and a groomer for grooming snow/fat bike trails; put up trail signs; completed its website, including a user-friendly trail map; liaised with a range of entities like the Telluride Mountain Club, the Forest Service, the Telluride Foundation, the Town of Mountain Village and others; surveyed local trail users; gotten involved with a Forest Service travel management plan; and secured financial support through grants and donations, as well as from a variety of local and regional businesses.

“I have never seen anything take traction like this before – ever – in Rico, and I’ve lived here since ’97. It’s exciting,” RTA Board Facilitator Nicole Pieterse.

Added local trail user and RTA member John Scarborough, “I’m thoroughly impressed by the progress and goals that RTA has accomplished in such a short period of time. As an avid mountain biker and 15-year Rico resident, I’m stoked that advocates of hiking and biking are joining together with the USFS to create and maintain local trails.”

Pieterse pointed out that the group’s many initiatives are as much about getting out and enjoying the hiking and biking in and around Telluride’s southerly neighbor as they are about ensuring the town’s long-term viability.

“Rico really needs to look at other ways to become sustainable,” Pieterse said. “A little recreational economy and sales tax base would be extremely helpful … We’ve seen people blasting through town with their skis or their bikes or their Nordic stuff on their vehicles and not even stop. It’s such a shame because there is so much to offer here.”

The menu of offerings is about to get bigger.

First up is the installation of a public bike repair station. RTA was successful in securing a private donation and grant from the MAKB Foundation, raising $1,600 that will cover the installation of the repair station, which will be located on Rico’s Main Street.

“It’s something that you see occasionally at a trailhead, where you have a stand to hold your bike and tools, connected to the stand by cables, and a pump,” Pieterse said. “I think it’ll be a nice amenity. It goes hand in hand with the fact that we are going to have an electric vehicle charging station at our town hall … It segues really well with alternative transportation and getting people to slow down and see what’s right here in Rico.”

Another RTA initiative is the construction of a pump track, which will be located near the town maintenance shed in Rico’s river corridor area.

“It will be professionally designed and installed with both contractors and volunteers,” Pieterse said, adding that the $5,000 in funding for the track, which is still in the planning stages, came from The Rico Center, a community foundation that receives Dolores County tax revenues and grants them to entities in the Rico Fire Protection District.

RTA also secured a sizeable grant of $60,000 from The Rico Center for three Forest Service-related projects, in part to fund an archaeologist to avoid the logjam waiting for the USFS’s own archaeology expert.

The first project will see work on the Ryman Creek section of the Ryman Creek-Colorado Trail-Salt Creek loop.

“It’s about 7 miles south of Rico, at the Dolores-Montezuma County line,” Pieterse explained. “There’s a trail that heads east along Ryman Creek and an upper section of it that has been decommissioned by the Forest Service because it is too steep and eroded. So, we are working with the USFS to create a new section of trail to connect the upper and lower portions of that trail that will go further into the valley and then contour up.”

The second project involves the Circle Trail, a historic route that links Rico to the Colorado Trail.

“The Circle Trail is in the Silver Creek drainage east of Rico,” Pieterse said. “It drops straight down into the road up above Rico. Out of Rico, you take a road to an old mill … and continue above a steep climb to the trailhead. It’s an old stock trail that apparently predates the creation of the Forest Service. It’s going to be designated officially as a USFS trail and they are doing that with the understanding that the Rico Trails Alliance will steward it.”

The third project involves the establishment of a river trail along the Rio Grande Southern Railroad’s grade through the town itself.

According to Pieterse, the proposed trail crosses town, USFS and private land, and stretches down to the Dolores County-Montezuma County line, which is right across the highway from the entrance to the Ryman Creek Trail. The River Trail would provide multiple options between Rico and the Colorado Trail.

“You know how many people use the Colorado Trail,” she pointed out. “If we could get them hiking or biking down to town, it would be great.”

Pieterse explained Circle Trail work will be completed this year, while the Ryman Creek project most likely get started in 2019.  

“The River Trail is a longer-term project requiring cooperation on many levels,” she added.