Volunteers must go through training to become a Trail Agent.

Notice anything different about your favorite mountain-biking trail? If you spot a carefully trimmed Gambel oak or new nicks and swales to drain water, it may be due to a landmark maintenance program that in its first three months trained more than 60 volunteers.

Seven public lands management agencies ultimately gave the go-ahead for the Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association’s (RFMBA) new Trail Agent program, which teaches the fundamentals of trail maintenance to recreationists who then work on their own in groups of three or fewer. What sets it apart is that the customary direct supervision by a land manager is not required.

By the end of May, Trail Agents had logged about 300 hours of training and trail maintenance, according to RFMBA Executive Director Mike Pritchard. Using tools provided by RFMBA, they’ve been lopping overgrown shrubs, removing downed trees, and improving drainage points in areas on Smuggler Mountain, Four Corners, and Buttermilk, and on trails from Aspen to New Castle.

“This is a new era of trail maintenance,” Pritchard says. “Everyone can contribute, even if it’s only for half a day. We’re trying to make it easy to be active in trail stewardship.”

Easy or not, the program still requires more than just a willingness to head out, clippers or shovel in hand. To become a Trail Agent, volunteers must study a comprehensive manual on trail oversight, pass a written exam, sign waivers, and perform a field test. They are not authorized to construct new trails, remove existing features, or take on larger-scope work, and they must submit a report of the work they do.

Next time you’re out riding, give a little thanks to these not-so-secret agents.  

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