Parks and trails are an important part of our community and quality of life. Colorado Springs has a robust system of trails and open spaces that allow residents and visitors to explore nature within city limits. But many new users lack the knowledge of how to responsibly and safely recreate outdoors. This can and has led to the destruction of sensitive ecosystems, confrontations between users and avoidable injuries. The need for positive, proactive education is at its highest, as more and more people are spend time outside. The Trails and Open Space Coalition (TOSC) hopes to fill this gap in trail education and stewardship with a newly developed program: The TOSC Trail Ambassador Program.
TOSC’s Trail Ambassador Program aims to supplement Park staff by providing another community resource for popular parks and open spaces. Volunteer Trail Ambassadors assist visitors with general trail information, promote friendly user etiquette, and monitor and report trail conditions. Trail Ambassadors are trained to provide route info, answer questions, and connect people with additional resources in our community.We hope to expand this program, but for now, Trail Ambassadors will focus on supporting these frequently used and increasingly vulnerable resources:
- Austin Bluffs Open Space
- Ute Valley Park
- Blodgett Open Space
- Palmer Park
- Red Rocks Open Space
- Stratton Open Space
made possible by these financial partners:
Interested in becoming a TOSC Trail Ambassador?
TOSC hosts several training opportunities throughout the year, which will include information on Leave No Trace Principles, the local environment, geological and historical facts of interest, and trail monitoring procedures. At the completion of training you should feel confident in:
- Providing environmental education to trail users – The six open spaces identified for this project are some of the most at-risk ecosystems in the Pikes Peak Region. They contain geological treasures, are habitats for threatened flora and fauna and most contain frangible soils that don’t stand up well to regular use. One of the most critical components of the Trail Ambassador program is educating trail users of the importance of staying on designated trails and respecting signs and barriers.
- Monitoring and reporting trail conditions and issues – In many cases, one park staff is responsible for monitoring and managing several larger open spaces. TOSC Trail Ambassadors serve as additional “eyes and ears” for the trails, monitoring and reporting trail conditions, usage concerns, or other pertinent information.
- Promoting trail courtesy, safety and awareness– Trail courtesy, safety and awareness have always been important, but now that we are seeing an unprecedented amount of new trail users, it’s more important than ever. Trail Ambassadors promote trail etiquette, such as who has the right of way, how to announce oneself when approaching another user, picking up after pets, greeting other users in a friendly manner. Trail Ambassadors can also promote safety on the trails by alerting users to poor trail conditions and unusual hazards or being able to advise new users of trail difficulty.
- Serving as a cheerleader for the outdoor spaces – Trail Ambassadors engage users more deeply in our open spaces by sharing the location’s rich history, geology and points of interest. Trail Ambassadors can recommend similar spaces for users to visit. TOSC believes the more people feel connected to their outdoor spaces the more committed they will be to preserving and protecting their trails, parks and open spaces.
- Trail Ambassadors will have a presence both on trails and at trailheads.
- Trail Ambassadors will receive a t-shirt to wear while volunteering.
- During patrols, Trail Ambassadors will actively engage with trail users in friendly manner by providing positive reinforcement to encourage good trail behavior, answering questions, and sharing information as appropriate.
- At the end of each patrol, Trail Ambassadors will complete a report, which will include data on user interactions and trail conditions.
TIME COMMITMENT:After the completion of the training, Trail Ambassadors can begin their patrols. TOSC will seek a commitment of 50-100 volunteer hours a year from each Trail Ambassador. Hours are flexible to your schedule and TOSC’s Program Coordinator, Aaron Rogers will be available to offer support and guidance throughout the program.
GOALS:The primary goal is to maintain the quality of our parks and trails through positive user interactions. These interactions include: praise for good behavior on trails, answering questions, sharing information (about parks/trails, leave no trace, safety, nature, etc.), promoting volunteer opportunities and TOSC.
In order to provide the best information to the Trail Ambassadors, TOSC will be collaborating with the following community partners:
City of Colorado Springs Parks and Recreation Department will lead the training on the Leave No Trace Principles and Trail Monitoring Practices. This program will help the City with their efforts to become a LNT Gold Standard site.
The Pioneers Museum will lead the training on Historical facts.
Guardians of Palmer Park, Friends of Red Rock Canyon, Friends of Stratton Open Space, Friends of Ute Valley Park, Friends of Peregrine Open Spaces and Parks and other Friends Groups will lead training on geological facts and points of interest.
Colorado State Parks and Wildlife will lead a discussion on wildlife.
UCCS Outdoor Recreation Department will educate Ambassadors on UCCS trails and points of interest around the trails in Austin Bluffs that are on University land.