Trail ambassadors honored with Gold Standard designation – The Times-Independent

Grand County’s trail ambassadors may don green uniforms, but they’re as good as gold.

The two-year-old visitor education program was recently awarded Leave No Trace’s Gold Standard designation. It’s the first place in Utah and the first program — rather than location — to receive the honor, which Leave No Trace describes as its “highest standard of recognition.”

Grand County’s trail ambassadors celebrate their Leave No Trace Gold Standard recognition. Responsible Recreation Coordinator Anna Sprout is at the far right. Courtesy photo

Anna Sprout, the county’s responsible recreation coordinator, thanked the trail ambassadors “for their hard work in the field making the connections with thousands of visitors.”

This fall, Grand County employed 10 part-time ambassadors, two for motorized recreation and eight for hiking, biking and climbing. The ambassadors share information about the fragile desert environment and responsible recreation along popular trails.

The Gold Standard designation “recognizes public lands implementing the highest standard of onsite Leave No Trace programs,” according to the 29-year-old nonprofit’s website.

“The Grand County Trail Ambassador Program will act as an example for other public lands and programs across the country to emulate,” reads a letter from JD Tanner, Leave No Trace’s director of education and training.

Launched in 2021, the county’s trail ambassadors share information with visitors along three main themes: protecting and minimizing impact to the landscape and recreation spaces; respecting others in these outdoor spaces; and preventative safety practices.

That messaging can include tips around staying hydrated, being conscientious of playing music in the backcountry and staying on-trail to protect biocrust.

“I think it’s important to look at this not only as an education program, but as a way to protect the resource that brings people back again and again to see this landscape,” Sprout said.

In its first two years, the program has provided Leave No Trace education and information to over 80,000 visitors. Much of ambassadors’ training, she said, focuses on how to approach people and make them feel welcome in the Moab area.

“We don’t want people to feel as though we’re out there forcing a message down their throat,” Sprout said. “We want them to feel inclined to participate in the learning.”

Grand County Commission Chair Jacques Hadler lauded the program for the “prestigious” honor at the commission’s Nov. 7 meeting.

“We are in discussions to talk about the whole Moab area possibly becoming a Gold [Standard] designation … which would have to get a lot of different entities on board,” he said.

Currently, every other Gold Standard site is in a specific location, often a national or state park. The designation lasts five years, at which point designees must reapply for the status.

To apply this year, Sprout said she compiled a 34-page summary of the program explaining its methodologies and results. After receiving high marks on the application, a Leave No Trace employee came out to observe the ambassadors firsthand.

Another Leave No Trace representative will formally present the designation at a Trail Mix volunteer appreciation event at 6 p.m. Nov. 15 at Field Station Moab.

Sprout also thanked Maddie Logowitz, the director of the Grand County Active Trails and Transportation Department, as well as the Bureau of Land Management, with which Grand County has built a two-decade partnership.

While she’s thrilled to have received the designation, Sprout acknowledged that there is always room to improve. She’s looking forward to continuing to hone the program in coming seasons.

“We have been hard on the ground trying to disseminate this message that I think is really important to not only the experience of visitors, but to the local community’s experience on trail as well,” she said. “We love these trails as employees, we love these trails as community members, and as a program we really hope that everybody has a similar experience as they will in 10 years.”

This article was originally published by a . Read the Original article here. .