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Juvenile offenders earn national nod for helping blaze trails

The once-cuffed hands of juvenile offenders helped earn national recognition for a Mount Charleston trail system.

Through the labor of juveniles at Spring Mountain Youth Camp and partner organizations, including the Grand Basin Institute, the Blue Tree Trail System received the 2015 Recreational Trails Program Annual Achievement Award. The Coalition for Recreational Trails recently recognized nine total projects across the United States.

The Blue Tree system has been recognized for its use of a $187,000 grant from the Recreational Trails Program towards education and communication.

Suzanne Shelp, the trails program manager for the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, applied for the grant after the trail system was analyzed in 2010. It needed maintenance that the U.S. Forest Service couldn‘t afford.

The funds allowed several groups such as the Back Country Horsemen and the Youth Camp to join forces to improve the area.

"€œIt was a really robust, strong collaboration between partners. (The youth) have gone from square one to doing the work, to providing a contribution to a project. A 50-mile trail system project,” she said on Tuesday. “I think it’s very significant in that respect and I think that‘€™s why we were recognized."€

The Blue Tree system is part of 135 non-motorized miles in the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area within the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.

The male juveniles at the Spring Mountain camp participate in a number of projects during their six to nine months there; forestry is one of them. That team is responsible for improving the trails.

Juvenile Probation Supervisor Kelly Storla said the team members work from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Tasks range from picking up trash to grooming trails.

The recognition honors several groups beyond the youth camp.

"€œThe education (part) was the education of youth in trail construction and maintenance techniques. That includes the Spring Mountain youths but also the Great Basin Institute,"€ she said. "€œAnd then our partners and our volunteers also learn building and maintenance skills."€

The Clark County Health District was part of earning the recognition for communication. Mindy Meacham, a health educator for the district, created a mobile app and a website to help the public get around the trails.

The boys who contributed to the Blue Tree Trail System at the time of the award application have left the camp. However, Storla said staff members at the camp remain.

"€œThe crew leaders are the same crew leaders and they did a lot of hard work on that trail,” she said. “They’re still working on that trail this year to maintain it and keep it looking really nice."€

Shelp said there are 85 miles of new trails that will be added to the recreation area before the summer ends. That includes an 11-mile trail in Lobo Canyon as well as 25 miles in Telephone Canyon across from the new Spring Mountains Visitor Gateway.

Contact May Ortega at mortega@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2908. Find her on Twitter: @MayVOrtega.

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