LARIMER COUNTY, Colo. — A year ago Monday, fires raged across Colorado.
The Cameron Peak fire became the biggest in Colorado history with nearly 210,000 acres destroyed — that's 328 square-miles, which is nearly the size of Denver and Colorado Springs combined.
Our Denver7 viewers stepped up immediately after the wildfires, giving your time and money to help those who lost so much. You donated more than $300,000 to our Denver7 Gives fund.
For the past year, Denver7 has been searching out the people who lost everything to the fires, as well as the organizations that are giving their time and resources to the rebuilding effort. We’ve donated tens of thousands of dollars, and we’re still going.
A few days ago, Denver7’s managing editor, David Klugh, climbed 11,000 feet into the Cameron Peak burn scar with a local mountain biking group that is focusing its shovels and chainsaws on 100 miles of trails the fire left in shambles.
In fact, every time we suffer a wildfire in this state, we lose hundreds of miles of those trails. Last year’s record-breaking wildfire season cost the state hundreds of miles of some of our most popular hiking and biking trails. That’s a loss that would be permanent if it wasn’t for certain people and organizations who refuse to let the flames destroy our ability to enjoy the great outdoors.
It was the Cameron Peak Fire that broke records and broke the hearts of hundreds who lost everything.
For the Overland Mountain Bike Association, Cameron Peak was a call to action. This nonprofit has spent countless weekends blazing its own trail of repairs and restoration to the popular Swamp Creek hiking trails, decimated by the state’s largest ever wildfire.
“We’ve got a passionate trails community, so we give back whenever we can, however we can, and I think the trails community also takes ownership of these trails,” said Kenny Beardon, the director of Overland Mountain Bike Association.
What’s left of these trails in the heart of the Cameron Peak burn scar would send most mountain bikers pedaling the opposite direction. That’s just not an option for Bearden and the Overland Mountain Bikers Association.
“They’re coming out to do this on their own time as volunteers,” Beardon said. “They could be out hiking or riding bikes or watching college football games today. Instead, they’re making the choice to be out here making this trail better of the Colorado public.”
If nonprofits and their volunteers chose to do nothing, Colorado’s trail system would shrink by another 100-miles in this location alone.
“We don’t have the 20-person trail crews that we used to have in the 80s and 90s,” said Matt Cowan with the U.S. Forest Service.
Crippled by budget and manpower cuts, it would take the U.S. Forest Service years to even put these repairs on a to-do list and decades to actually make the repairs.
The USFS's inability to budget for both the fire fight and the fire recovery has struck an altruistic nerve across the state.
“We’ve seen a record year in both number of volunteers, volunteer hours as well as the amount of work that’s gotten done,” Cowan said.
The work getting done this day by more than 50 volunteers will clear and rebuild five miles in one afternoon.
Dave Kahl is one of the nonprofit's most reliable volunteers.
“Certainly in my lifetime, this is always going to look kind of nuked. But I also feel heartened that the forest is going to recover from this. And while we’re here, we can do little things to help it along and help speed it up,” Kahl said.
Enthusiastic volunteers like Kahl are a bit easier to come by than the thousands of dollars it takes to organize an effort of this size. This herculean effort is exactly what your donations to the Denver7 Gives fire fund were intended to support.
Denver7 presented the Overland Mountain Bike Association a check for $10,000 in donated funds to help them continue their work.
“It means a tremendous amount. It takes a lot of work to make this happen. There’s a lot of dollars that need to come in for this effort. So, it’s incredibly appreciated,” Beardon said.
Our appreciation goes to you, our viewers, who’ve made such an incredible difference for both the people and places we hold so dear.
Click here to go directly to the Denver7 Gives donation form then choose a campaign
Denver7 features the stories of people who need help and now you can help them with a cash donation through Denver7 Gives. One hundred percent of contributions to the fund will be used to help people in our local community.