As a first-of-its-kind initiative in a Colorado state park, Cheyenne Mountain State Park (CMSP) has created a volunteer Trail and Bike Ambassador Program. With the goal of increasing visitor safety, education and enjoyment of the park, the members of the program serve as additional "eyes and ears" for park staff.
Created by Senior Park Ranger Jason Hagan and volunteer leader Rick Powelson (disclosure: I co-lead the program with Powelson), 20 CMSP volunteers chosen to participate in the program were given training in park rules and regulations, park history, how to interact with visitors in a non-confrontational manner, and de-escalation tactics.
The volunteers perform their duties either on foot or on bikes and do not have any enforcement authority. They are there to answer visitors' questions, remind park visitors about Leave No Trace principles and park rules, and monitor trail conditions and report problem areas that need attention. If an ambassador observes a particularly egregious park rule violation or encounters an aggressive visitor, they are trained to de-escalate as much as possible and to then contact a park ranger to address the problem.
After completing a tour, ambassadors file reports with Powelson, who then forwards them to Hagan. The reports detail which trails they visited, the number of visitors they encountered and the nature of the encounters, such as sharing greetings, providing trail or park information, giving advice or reminding visitors of park rules. They also note how many miles they traveled and how much time was spent, along with anything else of note, such as trail problems, trash found, etc. Ambassadors are identified by bright green T-shirts, donated by the Friends of Cheyenne Mountain State Park, with "Trail Ambassador" on the front and back and Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) volunteer logos on the shoulders, along with CPW name tags. Typically, ambassadors may carry paper maps to give visitors who need one, and an extra bottle of water in case a visitor runs short.
Although the program has only been in existence since this past summer, Hagan has seen benefits. "Trail ambassadors here at Cheyenne Mountain State Park have helped to create a safer and more enjoyable space to recreate for all user groups. With the increased visitation we have seen this year in the park, the need arose to have a team of volunteers to lead by example on the trail system, demonstrating proper trail etiquette and respect for all user groups." Visitor behavior in the park has improved, too, Hagan says. "We have seen a drastic decline in user conflict complaints since the inception of the program."
The trail ambassador program is similar to other programs in the area, such as Friends of the Incline ambassadors on the Manitou Incline, and a new program in Green Mountain Falls, designed to lessen the impact of visitors on town trails, without resorting to closing trails.
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