Public-Private Partnerships Enhancing Public Lands Access and Use

 

Griffith Peak Trail Rebuild

Friends of Nevada Wilderness used Recreational Trails Program (RTP) funds to lead volunteer trail crews to rebuild the Griffith Peak Trail in 2019 and 2020. This 5.6-mile hiking trail had been closed since being decimated by the Carpenter One fire and successive flooding in 2013.

The Griffith Peak Trail is located within the Mt. Charleston Wilderness, Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, and Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest; and managed by the US Forest Service. The Spring Mountains are just outside of Las Vegas, with trailheads to access the Griffith Peak Trail being a mere 30 - 45 minute drive from the city center. Because of this, the Spring Mountains see millions of visitors each year and the approximately 65 miles of hiking trails are very heavily used. The area is also about 20 degrees cooler than the valley floor, making it a favorite respite for those looking to escape the summer heat.

The Griffith Peak Trailhead is at 8,360 ft in elevation. The lower half of the trail traverses 2.6 miles to a saddle at 9,075 ft. This section was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Progress Administration in the 1930s. From there, the trail abruptly climbs 500 ft through incredible 1930s rockwork and traverses a total of 3 miles to meet with the South Loop trail (also known as the Mt. Charleston National Recreation Trail) and Griffith Summit trail, at 10,725 ft in elevation. These additional trails serve as a network of scenic routes for hikers and horseback riders.

The entire Griffith Peak Trail was one of many that burned in a nearly 28,000-acre wildfire in 2013. However, all of the other trails had been reopened by late 2016. The Griffith Peak Trail no longer existed in many areas and was strewn in downed bristlecone and ponderosa pines in the higher section and pinyon pines and junipers in the lower section. Parts of the trail were also entirely reshaped or washed away because of terrain altering flooding after the fire.

The Griffith Peak Trail is located within the Mt. Charleston Wilderness, Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, and Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest; and managed by the US Forest Service. The Spring Mountains are just outside of Las Vegas, with trailheads to access the Griffith Peak Trail being a mere 30 - 45 minute drive from the city center. Because of this, the Spring Mountains see millions of visitors each year and the approximately 65 miles of hiking trails are very heavily used. The area is also about 20 degrees cooler than the valley floor, making it a favorite respite for those looking to escape the summer heat.

The Griffith Peak Trailhead is at 8,360 ft in elevation. The lower half of the trail traverses 2.6 miles to a saddle at 9,075 ft. This section was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Progress Administration in the 1930s. From there, the trail abruptly climbs 500 ft through incredible 1930s rockwork and traverses a total of 3 miles to meet with the South Loop trail (also known as the Mt. Charleston National Recreation Trail) and Griffith Summit trail, at 10,725 ft in elevation. These additional trails serve as a network of scenic routes for hikers and horseback riders.

The entire Griffith Peak Trail was one of many that burned in a nearly 28,000-acre wildfire in 2013. However, all of the other trails had been reopened by late 2016. The Griffith Peak Trail no longer existed in many areas and was strewn in downed bristlecone and ponderosa pines in the higher section and pinyon pines and junipers in the lower section. Parts of the trail were also entirely reshaped or washed away because of terrain altering flooding after the fire.

PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS AND ACCESS TO/USE OF PUBLIC LANDS

Friends of Nevada Wilderness is successful because of strong partnerships within the community and across the state. Primary partners to accomplish the project are the US Forest Service, Cowboy Trail Rides, and community volunteers. Cowboy Trail Rides supported by using mules and horses to pack in tools, gear for overnights, food, and water to a backcountry campsite. Cowboy Trail Rides was supported by volunteers from the Back Country Horsemen of America, Bristlecone Chapter.

Forest Service partners manage the land for the public and will help by providing coordination, logistics, and long-term guidance of trail maintenance. The Forest Service also supported this project by funding Friends of Nevada Wilderness to design and install four interpretive kiosks at and leading up to the Griffith Peak Trailhead. Three kiosks focus on interpretation about the watershed that visitors pass through while driving to Griffith Peak Trail, including how it was affected by the same wildfire that burned Griffith Peak Trail. This road was finally opened in 2019 because Griffith Peak Trail, the road’s destination, would be opened soon. The fourth kiosk is about the Acastus checkerspot butterfly, one of many species that are endemic to the Spring Mountains and live in the Griffith Peak Trail corridor. Friends of Nevada Wilderness and the Forest Service issued a press release on September 26, 2020 to announce that the trail had officially reopened. A clip of the video coverage from Fox 5 Las Vegas can be seen here: https://fb.watch/259ZDbpez7/

PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIPS AND ACCESS TO/USE OF PUBLIC LANDS

Friends of Nevada Wilderness is successful because of strong partnerships within the community and across the state. Primary partners to accomplish the project are the US Forest Service, Cowboy Trail Rides, and community volunteers. Cowboy Trail Rides supported by using mules and horses to pack in tools, gear for overnights, food, and water to a backcountry campsite. Cowboy Trail Rides was supported by volunteers from the Back Country Horsemen of America, Bristlecone Chapter.

Forest Service partners manage the land for the public and will help by providing coordination, logistics, and long-term guidance of trail maintenance. The Forest Service also supported this project by funding Friends of Nevada Wilderness to design and install four interpretive kiosks at and leading up to the Griffith Peak Trailhead. Three kiosks focus on interpretation about the watershed that visitors pass through while driving to Griffith Peak Trail, including how it was affected by the same wildfire that burned Griffith Peak Trail. This road was finally opened in 2019 because Griffith Peak Trail, the road’s destination, would be opened soon. The fourth kiosk is about the Acastus checkerspot butterfly, one of many species that are endemic to the Spring Mountains and live in the Griffith Peak Trail corridor. Friends of Nevada Wilderness and the Forest Service issued a press release on September 26, 2020 to announce that the trail had officially reopened. A clip of the video coverage from Fox 5 Las Vegas can be seen here: https://fb.watch/259ZDbpez7/

Volunteers from the community were the ultimate partners and stakeholders for this project. Friends of Nevada Wilderness relies on a strong, large group of volunteers to help accomplish trailwork. Community partners who volunteered their time rebuilding Griffith Peak Trail include businesses such as REI, Knit Architecture Studios, and Zappos.com; local community groups such as Team Red, White & Blue and Boy Scouts of America. In total, 56 volunteers contributed 1,335 hours and 1,260 driving miles for a total in-kind donation of $35,119. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, almost all of these volunteer contributions occurred in 2019. The only volunteer involved in 2020 was a household member of a Friends of Nevada Wilderness employee who was also working on the trail.

AmeriCorps service volunteers took on a special importance to this project in 2020 since community volunteers were largely unable to be involved. Two AmeriCorps service volunteers joined the team June - August 2020, contributed immensely to rebuilding the Griffith Peak Trail. Both Melissa and Jackie first got involved with Friends through Alternative Spring Break events. Jackie credits her love for the outdoors to that first experience. She said “Most of the time this task calls for using a crosscut saw that is literally bigger than me!! It’s not easy, but it’s a lot of fun!” When asked what her favorite part of the summer was, she said, "Proving to myself that I'm tough enough to be part of a trail crew." Jackie now works for the Fish and Wildlife Service, and Melissa is serving a second AmeriCorps term with Friends.

Another key partner was the Spring Mountain Youth Camp (SMYC). SMYC is a juvenile facility that houses males aged 12 - 19 who have been adjudicated for delinquent acts. SMYC is located in the mountains and has worked with the Forest Service for over 50 years, the longest running collaborative efforts between the Forest Service and any such program in the US. Through the SMYC Forestry Program, young males help with things like trail maintenance, litter removal, sign construction, and snow removal. These youths were instrumental in building rock steps through the 0.33-mile part of Griffith Peak Trail that was rerouted. Rock steps were absolutely crucial to making this part of the trail not only sustainable, but safe to hike. Their contributions to rebuilding Griffith Peak Trail are not included in the volunteer totals above.

Rebuilding Griffith Peak Trail was truly a community effort that will benefit recreationists for years to come.

Volunteers from the community were the ultimate partners and stakeholders for this project. Friends of Nevada Wilderness relies on a strong, large group of volunteers to help accomplish trailwork. Community partners who volunteered their time rebuilding Griffith Peak Trail include businesses such as REI, Knit Architecture Studios, and Zappos.com; local community groups such as Team Red, White & Blue and Boy Scouts of America. In total, 56 volunteers contributed 1,335 hours and 1,260 driving miles for a total in-kind donation of $35,119. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, almost all of these volunteer contributions occurred in 2019. The only volunteer involved in 2020 was a household member of a Friends of Nevada Wilderness employee who was also working on the trail.

AmeriCorps service volunteers took on a special importance to this project in 2020 since community volunteers were largely unable to be involved. Two AmeriCorps service volunteers joined the team June - August 2020, contributed immensely to rebuilding the Griffith Peak Trail. Both Melissa and Jackie first got involved with Friends through Alternative Spring Break events. Jackie credits her love for the outdoors to that first experience. She said “Most of the time this task calls for using a crosscut saw that is literally bigger than me!! It’s not easy, but it’s a lot of fun!” When asked what her favorite part of the summer was, she said, "Proving to myself that I'm tough enough to be part of a trail crew." Jackie now works for the Fish and Wildlife Service, and Melissa is serving a second AmeriCorps term with Friends.

Another key partner was the Spring Mountain Youth Camp (SMYC). SMYC is a juvenile facility that houses males aged 12 - 19 who have been adjudicated for delinquent acts. SMYC is located in the mountains and has worked with the Forest Service for over 50 years, the longest running collaborative efforts between the Forest Service and any such program in the US. Through the SMYC Forestry Program, young males help with things like trail maintenance, litter removal, sign construction, and snow removal. These youths were instrumental in building rock steps through the 0.33-mile part of Griffith Peak Trail that was rerouted. Rock steps were absolutely crucial to making this part of the trail not only sustainable, but safe to hike. Their contributions to rebuilding Griffith Peak Trail are not included in the volunteer totals above.

Rebuilding Griffith Peak Trail was truly a community effort that will benefit recreationists for years to come.


More winners of this award

2023: Statewide Youth Volunteer Trail Maintenance

2020: Trailhead and Trail Construction in the Shawnee National Forest

2020: Thurston Hills Natural Area Trail Project

2019: Pole Mountain Trails

2018: McPhee Overlook Trail - Colorado

2017: Mountains-to-Sea State Trail/Fonta Flora State Trail Connector - North Carolina

2016: Gypsum City Off-Highway Vehicle Park - Iowa

2015: Montana OHV Trail Maintenance - Montana