Sep 102009
Authors: Matt Minich

Local rock climbers and outdoor enthusiasts will come together Saturday at Horsetooth Reservoir to build a new trail system for the Rotary Park day-use area, a small group of boulders on the East bank of the reservoir.

Saturday’s trail building efforts are the result of collaborations between Larimer County Parks and Open Lands and the Northern Colorado Climber’s Coalition, commonly known as NC3.

“(Rotary) is a valuable resource for climbers in the community, and on top of that, it’s also rich in history,” NC3 Secretary Ricky Newman said.

John Gill, a former CSU graduate student, first climbed the area’s boulders and is credited by many with popularizing the sport of “bouldering” in the United States.

Bouldering is the term for un-roped rock climbing of boulders that are typically less than 20 feet high. Rotary Park is one of Fort Collins’s closest bouldering areas, and is also popular with hikers seeking access to the reservoir’s beaches.

Heavy traffic from climbers and beachgoers alike has damaged vegetation, contributed to erosion and created an unsightly network of social trails, Newman said.

“The trails that are currently in place are just not doing it,” he said.

In an attempt to minimize the effects of traffic on the area, those who volunteer Saturday will work to establish separate, clearly marked trails for those hoping to climb the boulders and those seeking access to the beach, NC3 President Cameron Cross said in an e-mail.

The trail work is the product of a $695,000 grant awarded to Larimer County by Great Outdoors Colorado. Also known as GOCO, the fund applies proceeds from the Colorado Lottery to outdoor recreation projects across the state, GOCO’s Communications Director Chris Leding said.

Of the $695,000 going to Horsetooth Reservoir improvements, only $40,000 is going to the improvements at Rotary Park, Newman said. The remaining funds are going to a number of new projects at the reservoir, including the creation of a new swimming beach.

The NC3 is organizing volunteers to make the most of the $40,000 by reducing the cost of labor, Newman said.

The work comes less than a month before the 14th Neptune Mountaineering Horsetooth Hang — an annual bouldering festival and trash cleanup aimed at promoting and preserving the area’s climbing.

Senior Reporter Matt Minich can be reached at

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