Red Hill Special Recreation Management Area in Carbondale, known to locals as Mushroom Rock, is facing unexpected challenges due to vandalism and heavy use. Morgan Neely has more.
With more than 65,000 user days annually, Mushroom Rock is one of the most popular destinations for mountain biking, hiking and trail running in the Roaring Fork Valley.
“I love coming up here. It’s a beautiful environment, it’s extremely challenging as a mountain biker, it has great views, it smells like pinyon and juniper, and it’s a great escape from the city.”
That’s Chris Brandt, who serves on the nonprofit Red Hill Council, which maintains the parcel through an agreement with the Bureau of Land Management. He’s accustomed to heavy usage and off-leash dogs at Mushroom Rock. But what’s most vexing to him and other volunteers is a recent spate of destructive vandalism.
Davis Farrar is president of the council.
“This is one area where we’ve seen repeated efforts at removing the material we put in to camouflage and block off shortcuts,” he says.
With only one BLM ranger working an expansive district that includes the recreation area, trail maintenance is done by volunteers. Most of the efforts focus on blocking unsanctioned trails with natural materials that look at home in the high-desert environment: tree stumps, rocks and pine needles.
Farrar says many spur trails start with off-leash dogs instinctively taking the shortest line up the hill. Over time, these paths get worn in and people begin using them.
Since 2013, more than 14 incidents have undone dozens of hours of trail maintenance. Again, Farrar.
“It’s frustrating and it’s also insulting to the volunteers that come up here,” he says.
The first incident occurred following work by Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers to block a shortcut that climbed straight up the hill from the trailhead.
Farrar suspected at the time that homeless people were taking wood to use for campfires. But after an all-volunteer work day, he noticed that their work had specifically been targeted by vandals.
“Somebody came here, removed all the big material, and they even went down so far to remove all the duff and pine needles that we used to camouflage the lines," he says.
Farrar says the solution is communication, and if users of Red Hill are unhappy with changes to the trails due to reclamation and restoration projects, they should reach out to the council.
For Aspen Public Radio News, I’m Morgan Neely