Local non-profit, Gunnison Trails, in collaboration with the staff of Facilities Services at Western State College, recently gave the Old Car Trail above Mountaineer Bowl some much-needed attention. This well-used trail connects the Contour trail to the Ridgeline trail and is a staple of numerous walkers, runners and mountain bikers that use the public lands northeast of Western State College. The effort was the second in recent years; both led by Gunnison Trails and Director Dave Wiens.
After heavy rains caused severe damage in 2008, Gunnison Trails and WSC stabilized the trail by addressing erosion. “The Old Car trail is a classic example of an unsustainable route,” Wiens said. “Before we built the drainage features in 2008, the entire length of the trail would trap and carry all of the water running off from above.” The original features on the lower section have remained effective but the upper part is much steeper and has continued to be problematic.
The primary task for the 12-person crew from WSC was replacing topsoil on this upper portion that had been eroded by unchecked runoff. Additionally, derelict drainage features were rebuilt and new ones added to slow and reduce the erosional effects on any given section of the trail. Topsoil was stockpiled in advance at the worksite and carried to various locations on the trail using wheelbarrows.
A few hours later, when the pile that had been at the top was redistributed along the trail and sculpted by tools generously loaned for the project by the BLM, it was almost as if an entirely new trail had been created. Where just hours earlier had been a scoured trench of loose and embedded rocks, a smooth and uniform trail surface resided.
Time, precipitation and use will judge the effectiveness of the work but early indications are positive. Routine maintenance in the future, however, are a given for this version of the Old Car trail. Left to natural processes, this trail will slowly return to being an ever-expanding rut from top to bottom.
The trail’s origin can be traced to the placement of an underground utility line. This initial surface disturbance and its arrow-straight trajectory without regard to slope, captures and confines all runoff and subsequent erosion.
A sustainable, maintenance-free alternative to the Old Car trail was laid out and nearly built in place of the maintenance work in 2008. It would have tripled the length of the existing trail but was called off due to natural resource concerns.