Robyn Cascade is no stranger to the trails of the western slope. As a Leadership Team Member with the Northern San Juan Chapter for Great Old Broads for Wilderness, she has been dedicated to protecting wild lands, wild spaces, wilderness, and wild waters with the rest of the Great Old Broads for Wilderness members across the nation.
She was a stranger to Colorado Mountain Club’s (CMC) Recreation Impact Monitoring System (RIMS) mobile app. Three years ago, when she attended a training she remembers, “At first I was like, this is a lot of technology. But I got the hang of it and realized how to take the pictures and that you can take more than one picture at one site – things not so obvious to me at the training. Now I feel like it is so easy.”
With the help of CMC staff (who are available and able to help you too) Robyn was off and hiking with purpose. “Last summer on my first backpack, I hiked in on a trail I’d never been on before in the Uncompahgre Wilderness. There were a ton of trees down on the loop that I did, and many of them were in the first three to four miles,” Robyn recalls. “Come to find out, that is how the Ouray Trails Group prioritizes what trails they are going to work on.” That information from the RIMS app got to trail crews in such a timely fashion that they could prioritize trails they knew needed the most work. Trail crews can spend less time monitoring trails and more time improving trails. Robyn felt, “For the rest of the season it was pretty clear how my data helps trail maintenance.”
Letting land managers know of issues in real time is important for both the land managers and for hikers. When Robyn sees a problem on the trail, she turns on the app and reports it, as well as relishes in the break, before she’s off hiking again. “The older I’ve gotten, the less miles I do, so for me it has been really lovely to have a way to give back to the land. Normally I would want to get to my destination, but now that some days I am only traveling 3-6 miles a day, I am really happy to stop and conduct a campsite or sign inventory,” Robyn explains. “It has been kind of a transition for me of hiking with a purpose that is beyond hiking to some peak or getting to some lake or whatever. This is a way I can do good while I am out here doing what I love.”
Robyn has explored the many facets of the RIMS app such as reporting invasive species, livestock, campsite inventory, and missing trail signs. “I was very concerned coming back from a trip and seeing a place where the wilderness sign was dilapidated to the point of not recognizing it. People are going to come to the trail and not know they are entering a wilderness area,” Robyn says. “So I was able to report it as urgent, which means the Forest Service will be notified right away and can take care of the situation. So many people are unfamiliar with what wilderness is so these signs are crucial to remind people that mechanized and motorized use (including drones) is prohibited. Like all public lands users also must camp at least 100 feet from streams, lakes and trails to prevent habitat degradation. Having proper signage and reporting campsite non-compliance is crucial for agencies to monitor wilderness areas.”
Being a member of a conservation advocacy and stewardship organization, Robyn understands how crucial conservation policy can be. “Policy changes can take forever to solve overuse issues – initiating the closure of a trail or new permit system or use management, that stuff takes a long time. The data we collect is invaluable to land managers in order to take action regardless long it takes,” Robyn says. The data Robyn and all RIMS app volunteers are collecting are making sure agencies have the information to make management and policy decisions. But she can’t do it alone. Will you join Robyn and report trail issues through the RIMS app next time you see them on the trail?