An Underlying Program of Superheroes in Rocky Mountain National Park

We all know first-hand the kind of stress that millions of visitors put on park infrastructure. Beyond the unmatched work and dedication of Park Rangers and Park Staff, how do our National Parks and public lands keep up with the demands of maintenance and the ultimate framework for safe and enjoyable recreation? Unsuspecting figures that don't don a stetson hat, uniform, or badge are often the driving force of impact projects that support our favorite national treasures. Wild Tribute's partnership with Rocky Mountain Conservancy this past year highlights just that - the magic of superhero volunteers working in parallel to a coalition of agency officials.

Photo Credit: Rocky Mountain Conservancy

Despite a season that was cut short by a government shutdown, Rocky Mountain National Park reported a record number of visitors in 2019. Over 4.5 million people journeyed to Colorado to enjoy the majestic peaks, pine forests, secluded tundra, and alpine meadows this expansive park has to offer. At 266,000 acres, it’s a herculean responsibility to uphold the established infrastructure within park boundaries and the adjacent National Forests - the footsteps of hungry adventurers only adds further burden. The Rocky Mountain Conservancy, in cooperation with the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service, leverages AmeriCorps volunteers annually that form the Conservation Corps. This is a group of young, dedicated, and outdoor-minded individuals that sacrifice blood, sweat, and tears for the greater good of our public lands.

Photo Credit: Rocky Mountain Conservancy

Within the boundaries of Rocky Mountain National Park, there are four distinctive ecosystems and over 100 mountains that rise above 11,000 feet. This stretch of the Rocky Mountains is considered the backbone of the Continental Divide, hosting breathtaking vistas accessible by car, horseback, or foot. Each mode of travel relies heavily on the maintenance and upkeep of valuable infrastructure. These assets and resources depend on passionate professionals and volunteers alike in order to function safely and properly year over year. The Rocky Mountain Conservancy Conservation Corps provides a unique experience for young adults, especially those interested in natural resource conservation, biology, natural history, and environmental science. For eleven weeks, crews work side by side experienced NPS and USFS land managers constructing and maintaining trails, restoring historic buildings, and ultimately learning the tools of the trade.

In 2019 alone, 33 volunteers in the program contributed to projects inclusive of maintaining 137+ miles of hiking trails by removing 846 downed trees, constructing 127 check steps, installing or clearing more than 2,200 drainage structures, and repairing 4 backcountry stream crossing structures. This group further restored over a dozen historic buildings, including ranger cabins, ranch facilities, and even one of the park entrances. The Park's campsites also benefitted from the group's efforts by receiving upgrades to drainage systems and improvements to comfort facilities. If that's not impressive enough, the Conservation Corps also completed educational, career, and leadership development activities throughout the summer. 

Photo Credit: Rocky Mountain Conservancy

The program embodies a labor of love. Most importantly, the Rocky Mountain Conservancy Conservation Corps reflects a beautiful model of partnership, education, and conservation. Wild Tribute's 4 the Parks donations helped fund bi-weekly living stipends for members of the program in addition to all work clothing, housing, and gear required. From our perspective, we’ve experienced the rush of driving from Estes Park to Grand Lake on Trail Ridge Road; we’ve endured the Keyhole Route on Longs Peak; we’ve had encounters with elk, bear, and big horn sheep in Rocky Mountain's backcountry. But we know without question, our collective adventures in Rocky Mountain National Park pale in comparison to the values, skills, and experiences inherited by members of the Rocky Mountain Conservancy Corps. Want to get involved or learn more? Click here.

The Rocky Mountain Conservancy provides services, educational experiences, and materials to enhance Rocky Mountain National Park and surrounding public lands for all park visitors.