On Saturday, October 21, nearly 300 people will gather in Cheyenne Mountain State Park just outside of Colorado Springs for a truly unique trail race: the Cheyenne Mountain Run. Now in its third year, the race gives runners exclusive access to the Dixon Trail, a yet-to-be-completed route to the top of Cheyenne Mountain.
But the race is more than just a sneak peek at a long-awaited trail: Dick Standaert, former park ranger and volunteer with the nonprofit Friends of Cheyenne Mountain State Park (CMSP), created the race to raise funds for the trail’s construction. As the trail is built, the race course lengthens: it will eventually be a nearly 13-mile race to the 9,354’ peak, a likely hit with endurance enthusiasts across the country.
Yet given the trail’s economic potential, some may wonder why a fundraiser is even necessary to support the route to the summit. Quite frankly, building a trail is more expensive than you might think! Estimates for the Dixon Trail range from $80,000 to the hundreds of thousands – a hefty price tag for Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW), which operates the park and oversees the trail’s construction.
With state funding in short supply, CPW has turned to community partners for help. They’ve proven to be the key ingredient in funding and building the Dixon Trail: in the past few years, the Cheyenne Mountain Run raised $13,000 for the trail while nonprofits Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC) and Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI) raised additional funds and enlisted more than 300 volunteers to build nearly half of the trail, with about 1.5 miles still to be completed.
Thanks to partnerships like these, the route to the summit is expected to be completed in the next few years. This is good news for the many people who have long-awaited the Dixon Trail’s completion, eager to hike and bike on new trails.
Yet new trails bring new responsibilities. Just as land managers like CPW struggle to find the funding for new trails, there are few resources to maintain these trails and keep up with the impact of recreation. This is where outdoor stewardship organizations, like VOC and RMFI, must collaborate with recreation groups, like the Cheyenne Mountain Run, to achieve a healthy balance between recreation and restoration. While volunteers build and sustain trail systems, recreation groups can encourage people to preserve the resources they use through responsible recreation.
VOC and RMFI are sponsoring the Cheyenne Mountain Run this year to unite the two trail-loving groups. Through this partnership, hundreds of trail runners will learn about the immense amount of work volunteers have contributed to the trail’s construction and the need for more recreationalists to practice active stewardship.
Whether you’re a bird-watcher, a horseback rider, or just someone who enjoys the outdoors, there’s a way for everyone to play a part in developing this important trail. You can register for the Cheyenne Mountain Run’s 3-mile or 10-mile distance and/or get involved with stewardship organizations, like VOC and RMFI, through volunteering or donating to support trail construction and maintenance projects across Colorado.
Together, we can explore, enjoy and restore our favorite outdoor places.
Follow us on Facebook and check out the photos from VOC’s 2017, 2016, and 2015 Dixon Trail projects. And, if you participate in the Cheyenne Mountain Run, keep an eye out for fellow participant Jeff Trujillo, one of our long-time Board Members and volunteers!
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