DGO Rock Project

“I want my love for these unique and special environments of Durango to be spread to everyone in the community.”

- Skylar Smith

Background Information

The feeling of being in a quiet, peaceful, and undisturbed environment is precious, but the sight of another person’s disposal and disrespect to these environments motivates Skylar to make a change.  Ever since Skylar Smith moved to Durango, Colorado when he was 10 years old, he has been constantly exposed the many unique and beautiful environments that the small town of Durango has to offer. His recognition and appreciation for the beauty of these special places has decreased rapidly ever since he started encountering trash, graffiti, and other unnatural things that are a detriment to the beauty of Durango.

He wants his love for the outdoors to be spread amongst his community and to inform them about maintaining cleanliness in the areas of Durango (including the climbing areas, trails, and boulders).  Skylar’s vision is to inspire groups of people that enjoy spending time in these areas as well, so that people will continue to do good deeds and continually benefit the environment of Durango. Not long ago, Skylar encountered grafitti sprayed on several boulders in a local Boulder Garden in Durango, “Turtle Lake.”  When he and his friends saw the graffiti on the boulders, their emotions were drained, and they were so angry and sad that someone would do this to such a special place.  Skylar and his friends took the initiative to spend hours  cleaning the boulders to maintain a special location.

As a result of their community service, the Turtle Lake Boulder Garden of Durango is much more clean and now more locals spend their afternoons climbing on more undisturbed rock. However, people continued to disturb or disrespect the beauty of Durango and Skylar wanted to make a difference. He and other Durango locals, wanted to spread a message for a good cause. They wanted to inform users of these environments to simply pick up their belongings, to refrain from littering, to respect the areas, and to keep Durango clean. His plan was to make posters and hang them up around beautiful places around town, and inspire groups of people to have days cleaning up an assigned area determined by Skylar.

Implementation of Project

After all of Skylar’s preparation sessions, meetings, and thinking of his own, he decided to revitalize a popular trail to a local climbing area in Durango: East Animas. The day started out with the action team meeting at the trailhead parking lot at 10am.  More and more people started showing up to Skylar’s event!  Before they all started working, Skylar thanked them all for coming and helping out with the event that he called the “DGO Rock Project,” inspired by the Access Fund.

He divided everyone up into 6 different sections and sent the teams to the appropriate marked section on the trail (section 1 being the closest to the parking lot and section 6 being at the top of the trail). There, the volunteers would start working by moving rocks and roots out of the trail, smoothing out switchbacks on the trail, getting rid of logs, foliage, and adding rock steps if needed.

At first, Skylar’s action team was working really hard. He captured a lot of great videos of people working hard in every section. The only struggle throughout Skylar’s event was maintaining the solid effort while being in direct sunlight for long durations. The action day was a hot, 85 degree day, and everybody was getting very lethargic and thirsty by the end. However, Skylar, with the help of his coaches, were able to inspire others to keep going, and to finish the day off strong.

“I was nervous that people were going to stop working after a couple of hours, but the motivation remained high throughout the day, and everyone began to ignore the hot weather.”
– Skylar Smith

Results of Project

The most rewarding part of the day was when Skylar walked up and down the trail, seeing a huge improvement. It was much easier to get through some of the technical sections, the switchbacks were smoothed out and more defined, several rocks and roots were removed from the ground preventing anybody from tripping, etc.  After about 4 pm, everyone was exhausted and did as much as they could. Roughly 6 hours of work was completed on the action day… involving 15-20 people.  At the end of the day, everyone was at the parking lot drinking lemonade, eating snackbars, homemade cookies, and celebrating our hard work. It was a great day and a huge success for Skylar.

“It’s a great feeling growing from someone who was a follower of volunteer events like this, and changing into someone who is now leading and organizing it.”
– Skylar Smith

What’s Next?

Skylar hopes to continue using his leadership skills not only in his home community (Durango, CO), but wherever he decides to go in his life. He plans on attending a liberal arts college on the west coast, where he will be studious, adventurous, eager to learn, anxious to lead, and explore the world. Even though Skylar doesn’t plan to live in Durango, CO, his hometown, for the rest of his life, he has faith that his inspiring vision will motivate people to help the special environments of Durango to be restored, and rejuvenated.

“I am excited for whatever life brings me next….I just hope I can keep using my skills as a leader.”
– Skylar Smith