Colorado inmates help clean up the Mountain Boy Basin

Colorado public lands

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The Mountain Boy Basin, a popular hiking and skiing location in Colorado, is back to its former glory thanks to the hard work of prison inmates, local volunteers, recovering addicts and pack animals. It’s a result of the Mountain Boy initiative, which was launched three years ago by the Independence Pass Foundation with the goal of cleaning up the pass with some assistance from the U.S. Forest Service, the Midland-Reporter Telegram reports.

Karin Teague is executive director of the foundation and a frequent visitor of the newly-cleaned up area. Prior to the clean-up, the area was riddled with debris from a long-abandoned snow fencing experiment in the 1960s. Teague says that the rusting metal debris is not only a hazard to people, but also to wildlife –like elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose and mountain goats – that live in the area.

“(It’s) amazing to me that no one has impaled (himself or herself),” Teague told the Midland-Reporter Telegram.

It’s not an easy place to clean out since the area is a designated wilderness and vehicles and mechanized equipment is prohibited. To complete the project, the foundation “relied solely on the grit and strength of volunteers” and pack animals like horses and mules to “haul out the heavy remnants,” according to the Midland-Reporter Telegram.

To tackle such a large and physically demanding job, Teague partnered with the Buena Vista Correctional Facility. Eight male inmates and one supervisor joined the other volunteers at the Mountain Boy Basin to get it done.

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Teague was pleased with how well the arrangement worked with the inmates.

“The skills they all bring to this project, I mean, they are half the reason why we’re able to get this rebar out of the ground, because they figured out how to use these jacks and how to tie the chain just right, and how much leveraging (is) needed, and they’re very clever with tools and finding solutions to problems,” said Teague. “Something I never could’ve done on my own, so they’ve been a great gift.”

Teague believes that participating in the clean-up was also beneficial to the inmates as they got to work outside and experience fresh air while making a difference.

“They are people who can and will be highly contributing members of our community if we give them a chance,” said Teague.



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