The Continental Divide Trail (CDT) is 3,100 miles between Mexico and Canada along the continental divide through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. One of the three famous thru-hikes in …
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The Continental Divide Trail (CDT) is 3,100 miles between Mexico and Canada along the continental divide through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. One of the three famous thru-hikes in America, the CDT wanders through scenery that is remote and rugged. For many of us, seeing CDT end to end will never happen. However, there are some easy access points worth visiting such as the Herman Gulch Trail. Hiking up the trail to Herman Lake, you will experience a piece of Colorado’s beauty from the top down. To learn more, we caught up with Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado and Continental Divide Trail Coalition at the trailhead for a restoration project and to celebrate the CDT’s 40th Birthday.
To appreciate the importance of the CDT, we have to step back past its inception to 1958 when President John F. Kennedy commissioned the Outdoor Recreation Resource Review Commission (ORRRC). The report provided recommendations on how to ensure "The outdoors may be available to the Americans of the future as it has been to those of the past." The ORRRC predicted that the outdoor recreation would grow consistently over time. Outdoor recreation has since far exceeded their predictions and is now is listed in the GDP at $373 billion.
The ORRRC report led to the National Outdoor Recreation Act of 1963 establishing provisions for government “to act in accordance to acquire, protect, and promote public lands in a spirit of cooperation and in the best interest of the people.” The Act established the funding mechanism called the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and the administration therein by the Bureau of Outdoor Recreation (BOR), now part of the National Parks Service. BOR’s initial efforts included the National Trails Act which established the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail and studied the establishment of the CDT. The program eventually started development of the CDT in August of 1978.
Even after 40 years, the process of land acquisition and trail building is still ongoing. Hikers have to walk the shoulder of the highway where gaps in the trail occur. Much of the land the CDT planned to cross was private property and needed to be purchased. The challenge is funding at the required level far exceeds any potential private donations. For this reason, we need the government to step in. Initially, the sale of federal surplus, recreation fees, and motorboat fuel funded the LWCF and the proceeds were less than $100 million. Congress rectified the perceived shortfall by adding in the leases from the Outer Continental Shelf. After Big Thompson Flood in 1976, the massive recovery required nearly $100 million from LWCF. To fund restoration and fix shortfall, Congress increased appropriations to $900 million.
The current appropriation cycle for the LWCF ends in September of 2018. Without action, this funding source will cease to exist, and projects like CDT will stop. Senate and House bills are proposed to reauthorize the LWCF in perpetuity. Unfortunately, the current administration and lobbyists are pushing to defeat this bill. Please consider writing or calling Michael Bennet and Cory Gartner to thank them for their support in the Senate. Similarly, please thank representatives Diana DeGette of Denver, Ed Perlmutter of Arvada and Jared Polis of Boulder for their efforts in the house. These simple actions show your representatives how vital reauthorizing the LWCF is whether it is for the CDT or other projects. Completing the CDT would be an epic accomplishment for public lands in Colorado and the Rocky Mountain Region, we sure hope you agree!
Forget your worries, get a Pebble in Your Shoe!
Pebble In Your Shoe is a local blog in the Wash Park Area. Fred Winter runs the site along with his wife, Katie. The primary purpose is to help newcomers to Colorado prepare to recreate outdoors, progress in their sport of choice, and hopefully, through our stories learn how to protect the lands they use for recreation. See where the trail can take you at pebbleinyourshoe.com.
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