Rico Trails Alliance (RTA) has a lot going on: a new Trails Maintenance Fund, trail workdays and group hikes, runs and bike rides, plus a new bike repair station, and a growing network of trails.
Learning more about RTA and its various initiatives, all while fundraising for the 3-year-old nonprofit, will be fun and easy, according to organizers, at the 2019 RTA Summer Fundraiser Saturday in Rico Town Park.
“It will be a great time,” RTA board facilitator Nicole Pieterse said, adding that the event is becoming increasingly popular not just in Rico, but farther afield. “We draw people from Durango to Ridgway, Norwood, and Telluride and Ophir, of course, but really from all over.”
Cristal Hibbard, who serves as a board member along with Luke Brown, Rob Cummings, Mike Guskea, Katie Stokes and Alex Wing, agreed that the event is attracting more and more people and credited her fellow board members.
“I think that the RTA board is made up of people that are well-established and involved in the area, so they were able to drum up excitement and support through their respective networks,” Hibbard explained. “Rico has some really unique trail offerings, so folks are excited that they can check out new trails relatively close to home. RTA also just throws an awesome party, and word has spread that it shouldn’t be missed.”
The opportunity to check out those trail offerings forms the first half of the fundraising event. Registration for a shuttle to Salt Creek for an advanced bike ride begins at 9 a.m.; the shuttle leaves at 10 a.m. Demo bikes will be available starting at 9:30 a.m. An all-levels bike ride and a group hike begin at 10:15 a.m.
“We have several options this year,” Hibbard said. “The first is a Salt Creek Trail shuttle ride. This is an advanced (mostly) downhill ride and we have limited space in the van. This ride will fill on a first-come-first-served basis. If folks want to shuttle their own vehicles, they are free to follow our van and join the ride that way.”
Hibbard added that RTA is not charging for the shuttle service, but “we would certainly appreciate an additional donation from those that get to enjoy this ride. We are suggesting $25, that’s $1 for every 100 feet of sweet, gravity-powered singletrack descent.”
For those looking for a more leisurely Saturday morning, there will also be an all-levels ride around Rico.
“This ride will be less challenging than years past; less strenuous climbing and very little technical riding,” Hibbard said.
And then there is a group hike.
“For those trail enthusiasts that are not interested in biking, we are doing a group hike this year,” Hibbard added. “The hike will start up Burnett Creek and go over to the historic Rico coke ovens. Nicole will be leading and has some great Rico history to share along the way. … All will return before the rest of the festivities begin.”
The “rest of the festivities” includes a barbecue and live music, plus a raffle and silent auction.
The barbecue, which begins at 1 p.m., is serious stuff with La Marmotte’s Will Nolan dishing up barbecue chicken, pulled pork and smoked beets with sauces and sides and peach cobbler for dessert.
“I chose to help out with the RTA event because I ride the trails of Rico almost every day,” Nolan said. “The RTA puts in a ton of work building and maintaining the trails, so it is the least I could do.”
Telluride Brewing Co. and Telluride Distilling Co. will be serving up the adult beverages, and starting at 2 p.m., local group Porch Wood will provide the live music.
Fundraising comes from a raffle and silent auction with goodies courtesy of Telski, which is donating passes to the new bike park; carbon bike wheels worth $3,000 from Enve; connoisseur-grade, small-batch mezcal from Mezcal Vago; GoodLight natural candles; and gift items from Patagonia, Osprey, Jagged Edge and others.
According to the event’s organizers, all proceeds from the fundraiser will directly benefit the RTA’s new Trails Maintenance Fund, set up to provide funding for work crews to maintain and repair the existing non-motorized trails around Rico that are in need of repair.
“This money is needed to ensure that these trails are maintained and even improved during the current period where U.S. Forest Service resources are vastly limited,” Pieterse said.
Added Hibbard, “RTA recently established this fund to provide resources to help the USFS address the backlog of maintenance projects on Rico area trails. These projects often include fixing areas with water or erosion damage or where trails have become difficult to follow. For example, this summer we hired a Southwest Conversation Corps crew to improve the lower Ryman Trail under direction from USFS. The trail was realigned around soggy areas, trenches were de-bermed and culverts added to get spring water off of the trail. For our next trail projects, we plan to continue working with the Forest Service to identify priority maintenance needs in the area.”
Pieterse emphasized that the RTA believes that its impact extends beyond the trails network to the wider Rico community.
“By improving recreational opportunities here,” she said, “we improve the Rico experience for all ages and draw more visitors to our small town.”
Nolan agreed. The chef, who is currently working to establish a skateboard park in Rico with support from RTA, said that the objective of all of these initiatives is to bring more visitors to Telluride’s southerly neighbor.
“We all want Rico to see more community events,” Nolan said. “A skatepark, along with the mountain bike trails, are great reasons for people to visit.”