volunteers

Last year a group of volunteers came to the aid of the Wood River Trails Coalition.

The Wood River Trails Coalition isn’t seeking a federal CARES Act loan this summer as many nonprofits are, but it will be looking for donors and volunteers to keep hiking and biking trails in good shape.

“The trails are seeing a lot more use as the weather gets nicer and people are looking for things to do close to home,” Executive Director Sara Gress said.

The Wood River Trails Coalition, formerly known as the Wood River Bicycle Coalition, was founded in 2011. The group no longer focuses on cycling advocacy, but instead focuses on trail maintenance and projects for all users.

Working with a 2020 budget of $82,000, Gress plans to organize teams of volunteers to work with U.S. Forest Service and BLM crews to help fix and maintain about 430 miles of trails around Ketchum and Hailey.

“The large majority of our work is literally boots on the ground,” Gress said. “We pay staff to do trail work, lead volunteers in work and operate the nonprofit side of the WRTC. We don’t have a lot of need for things, we just need people to do work. The trails don’t maintain themselves.”

Gress, 33, who formerly worked on the Ketchum Ranger District trail crew, said donations appear to be steady since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic—though it’s hard to tell. This year, the Coalition ran a bike raffle, which it didn’t last year. That might account for some of the money, Gress said.

“This is the time of year that donations ramp up along with the trails melting out and opening,” she said. “People are excited to use the trails.”

The coronavirus might change Gress’ plans only slightly. She said working outside makes social distancing easier than in some workplaces.

“Trail work is easy to do alone or with social distancing, so WRTC staff has already been able to get out and do trail work with our partners,” Gress said.

That includes volunteer motor bikers who have already gone to work with chainsaws clearing fallen logs.

“We’re figuring out how to facilitate volunteer trail work without endangering our volunteers or the community,” she said. “But we will have to tweak our volunteer program, as we typically do big group-style events. We hope to still be able to accomplish our summer goals of 600 volunteer hours and recruiting 50 new volunteers.”

Gress said nonmotorized trail work events will begin in June and will follow any coronavirus guidelines in place at that time.

For more information or to donate, go to woodrivertrailscoalition.org.

Email the writer: tevans@mtexpress.com

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