Well over 100 of the 253 industry leaders attending this year's Outdoor Industry Association Rendezvous in Beaver Creek, Colo., stepped up and volunteered their time and energy on Oct. 2 for the annual Timberland Service Project, organized and run by City Year -- www.cityyear.org. So many volunteered, in fact, that Timberland and City Year could not accommodate everyone.
Our destination was the small town of Red Cliff (population: 500), where last year half the volunteers from the Rendezvous spruced up and added safety features to the town's only park. On the fringe of the rich and frou-frou ski resort towns, the town of Red Cliff has been around since the mid-1800s and still is called home by many on the lower end of the valley's economic spectrum. Some have been in the town for two, three or four generations since the miners arrived there. About half are of Hispanic descent. Now, the rich and famous are discovering the area's beauty only 9 miles from Vail and driving up home prices, which in turn is forcing some residents to work two jobs to keep up with rising property taxes.
Enter Rendezvous participants: Saturday afternoon, several buses pulled into town in a caravan, and our happy teams disembarked clutching box lunches (swap you a chocolate chip cookie for a Rice Krispie treat) and an overwhelming desire to begin sweating for a good cause. Guided by City Year youth leaders in red sweatshirts (each with entirely too much energy), our happy mass of humanity divided into groups to work at one of four areas â€“ the drinking water plant, the town cemetery, a kayak put-in, and the playground.
Playground: Rendezvous volunteers last year worked on the playground and this year's playground work crew included five or six who had been there last year, including two from the GearTrendsÂ®/SNEWSÂ® team. What a pleasure it was to see that our work still existed â€“ a platform that protected kids from falling on rocks if they tumbled off the play structure, mulched play areas and painted structures still without splinters. But plants had died over the winter, mulch needed refreshing, and the blacktop basketball and play area cried for new paint. This was also the only project that actually allowed some interaction with the town, being in the town center and not on the fringes. Cars slowed to allow those inside to wave and to gawk. Kids snuck up on the edges to watch. Dogs wandered over to get a few scratches and become mascots (although when the friendly, blue-eyed husky-wolf mix wandered across the fresh blue paint to leave tracks the "Oh No!" resounded far and wide). We were a proud bunch, leaving fresh mulch, newly planted flowers and brightly painted hopscotch, four-square and basketball court areas. An employee of Mango's Grill, holding her baby, just gushed with thanks when she found out a couple of us who had wandered in were doing playground upkeep: "I just can't tell you or find the words to tell you how much we really appreciate what you're doing." And we were joined when done by John, the aging Hispanic owner of the liquor store across the street, so he could have a picture taken with us â€“ after of course telling us several times, "It's tequila time!"
Greenwood Cemetery: Since 1864, the local community has been burying its dead in the town's cemetery, but there is no regular upkeep of the grounds. More than 50 Rendezvous attendees, including a GearTrends crew member, along with Red Cliff's mayor, volunteered to rebuild the cemetery's fence, repair and repaint the gate, and clear weeds and brush from the graves and surrounding area. Broken up into smaller groups, workers dove into their respective tasks, resulting in a spruced up entrance that included new plants and a clearing of brush several hundred yards into the cemetery. During the debrief session, many volunteers reflected on the long history of the cemetery and hoped their day's achievements would spur local residents to continue the work started by them.
Drinking water plant: For the past two years there has been a "boil all water" order for all water the town's residents use. Adam Forest, of The Forest Group, told SNEWSÂ® that the Water Plant team spent the afternoon creating sediment fences and planting willows on both sides of the water supply to help control erosion. In addition, a separate crew spent its time pulling up a 50- to 70-foot length of chain link fence that had bent over and become submerged in the drinking supply. That team used cables and additional supports to raise the fence and make it completely secure. Said Forest, "Fundamentally there is nothing more elemental than clean drinking water, and it was so nice to be associated with a project for a town that is essentially broke and to be able to make such a difference to a community in need on such a basic level."
Kayak put in: At the other end of the drinking water system lies the water treatment plant, right next to a favorite put-in for expert kayakers as well as near a favorite place for area fly fishing devotees. The EPA has threatened to fine the town many thousands of dollars a day because the water treatment facility is not secure, forcing the town to put a gate across the road leading down to the river and the plant that would close access. Team Kayak, with an enthusiastic SNEWSÂ® member on the crew, divided into squads. One team worked to level out the parking area and create tire stops to define the lot. In addition, using pick axes, shovels and wheelbarrows, gravel was spread over the area to help eliminate puddles and to control erosion. Special thanks goes out to Kay Henry who volunteered to balance herself on a section of fence that three other team-members used to drag around the lot to "grade" the area -- no one said the work was not without risk. Another team worked to add a gate to the fence around the treatment plant, as well as shore up the fence in places where it was beginning to fall over and put up no trespassing signs all around to comply with EPA requirements. A planting team added willows to the river's edge to eliminate rogue trails that kayakers had worn into the river banks. And finally, Team Trash worked to haul an amazing amount of junk up from the river's edge -- junk that included tires, chairs, chunks of metal and wood and, yes, even an entire porta-potty. Two area residents that worked side-by-side told all of us that by securing the area, our industry volunteers were making it possible for the city to once again open up the area to recreation.
* Look for complete coverage of the OIA Rendezvous -- seminars, key note speeches, events and more -- in next week's SNEWSÂ®