For those who would like to explore a new area of the Gila National Forest while making a difference Heart of the Gila (HOTG) is gearing up for its spring 2020 Trails Partnership projects. The HOTG trails partnership is a volunteer based program bringing together people and resources to maintain trails throughout the Gila. The program operates in cooperation with the U.S Forest Service.
Upcoming volunteer opportunities include trail projects near Miller Spring Cabin, Little Springs, upper Turkey Creek, and near Snow Lake. Good food, good company and trail and safety training are provided. Tools and food are packed in by local outfitters or the Gila Back Country Horseman. Project specifics and information on volunteering can be found on the HOTG website.
In 2019, HOTG Trails Partnership's first year, volunteers contributed over 3,000 hours of work and helped open over 50 miles of trails, many of which were previously unusable. They removed over 450 logs from the trails, sometimes by literally crawling down the trail and volunteers removed massive amounts of brush from the corridor. This work could not have been done without the collaboration of the Gila Back Country Horsemen, who worked closely with HOTG for most of the trail projects. Their members provide pack support, precook meals for the back-country projects and remove the big logs in the trail – over 900 last year, with crosscuts and chainsaws, when allowed. This synergistic partnership has improved both groups’ ability to make a difference regarding deferred maintenance on the trails.
The capacity to clear and maintain trails in the Gila National Forest was also increased by teaming up with regional groups like New Mexico Volunteers for the Outdoors, the Continental Divide Trail Coalition and the Southern New Mexico Trail Alliance. Also participating are local groups like the Silver City Bike Group and the Gila National Forest Trail Crew. Local outfitters include Gila Hot Springs Ranch, Gila Back Country Services and San Francisco River Outfitters.
To make this all possible, funding for past and upcoming 2020 trail projects comes from the State of New Mexico with support from Representative Rudy Martinez, grants from the Gila National Forest Service and the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), and individual donations from the local trails community.
While opening trails is a crucial first step to supporting access to wilderness, providing quality trail information also helps disperse use and enhance the safety and enjoyment of those exploring these areas. This is why HOTG Trail Partnership volunteers create trail maintenance logs and maps of cleared trails, which can be accessed on the HOTG web site. This information is essential when planning a hiking trip into the Gila Wilderness and surrounding areas. It incorporates the trail work completed by multiple groups and is updated frequently throughout the trail season.
For those who can’t participate as a volunteer this year, there are other ways to offer support. An important one is to hike the trails that are open and enjoy the beautiful forest. After a hike on these trails, fill out a trip report regarding trail conditions and water sources. This simple form can be found on the HOTG website. Remember to incorporate Leave No Trace Principles on all your adventures to preserve these gems for future generations.
Heart of the Gila is a local non-profit organization that seeks to conserve our watersheds and to educate children, adults, and decision makers about the ecological, economic and cultural values of rivers in New Mexico and the bioregions of the greater Southwest. Its stewardship programs include river cleanups, invasive species eradication, habitat restoration, biological monitoring and trail maintenance.
Donations can be made to Heart of the Gila or HOTG Trails Partnership Program. For more information visit heartofthegila.org or contact the groups at firstname.lastname@example.org.