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Trailkeepers Aims to Put Boots and Shovels on the Ground
Thursday, June 7, 2018


Susan Giannettino scrutinized the V-shaped trough that rain and snowmelt had carved in the upper reaches of the popular Cow Creek trail in Greenhorn.

She took a picture with her iPhone to send to trail tenders.Then she clambered up the trail, forced to plant her feet on the sides of the trough rather than the bottom.

The Ketchum Ranger District’s Renee Catherin has some ideas about how to rectify parts of the trail that have become degraded, said Chris Leman, who heads up volunteer work projects throughout the summer on behalf of the Blaine County Recreation District and Ketchum Ranger District.

But whether anything will get done this summer is anyone’s guess, given a plethora of trail work that needs to be done and a limited budget.

That could change with a new initiative supporters have dubbed the Trailkeepers Campaign.

The effort would seek contributions from community members, visitors who use the trails and businesses to create a sustainable funding stream for maintenance of more than 500 miles of local trails.

"We're to the point we need everyone's help," said Nancy Humphrey, who has spearheaded the effort along with Giannettino, Brett Stevenson and Kathy Gibson as part of the 5B Restoration Coalition that was founded to restore trails and natural assets following the 2013 Beaver Creek Fire. "If we don't step up, we're not going to have trails the way we want them."

The trails are an economic driver for the community, Humphrey added. And trails in disrepair are not inviting.

Ketchum resident Bob Jonas found that out last summer during his llama trek across five local mountain ranges when hikers and mountain bikers became frustrated by dozens upon dozens of trees that had fallen across popular trails in the Stanley Basin area following a record breaking snow year.

"We're never coming back here again," one group told him.

Ketchum Ranger District Kurt Nelson likened the Trailskeepers initiative to the Friends of the Sawtooth Avalanche Center. Last year, he noted, the Friends contributed nearly $100,000 that they'd raised to the Sawtooth Avalanche operations.

"We have a line item of around $60,000 supporting a director and a lead forecaster," Nelson noted. "Their money enabled a third forecaster and intern to be hired and equipment needs to be met. It made for a more robust program."

Many other communities have programs that are similar to the proposed Trailskeeper Campaign. The Sedona Red Rock Trail Fund, for instance, collected $90,000 a year ago to fund delayed and deferred maintenance for seven local trails that were crumbling as federal budget cuts stripped away the U.S. Forest Service's ability to maintain and develop biking, hiking and horseback routes.

The Sedona Chamber of Commerce donated $56,000 from the local bed tax and 18 businesses committed to a fundraiser plan donating another $50,000 annually over the next five years.

This year the Ketchum Ranger District had to apply for a grant from the National Forest Foundation to secure $10,000 to be pooled with money from the BCRD and BLM to help fund Chris Leman's position because they didn't have money internally for it, Nelson added.

The gap between what local agencies are currently getting and what they need is about $85,000, Giannettino said.

Rather than reinvent the wheel, Giannettino and Humphrey are proposing to revitalize the Big Wood Backcountry Trails organization, which is already an existing 503 c organization with bylaws intact. It would be the holder of the money but would work in collaboration with groups like the Sawtooth Backcountry Horsemen and Wood River Bike Coalition to make sure the needs of all users are met, Giannettino said.

A five- to seven-person board is being assembled.

A website and brochure are being developed with hopes the campaign can get started  soon, Humphrey said. Already, she added Subaru of Twin Falls and Zions Bank have expressed an interest in making contributions.

"If you walk our trails, you might as well contribute," she added.

For information, contact Nancy Humphrey at 208-309-3071 or email


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