History of Top of the Pines
Top of the Pines is a 175-acre property located at 8,500 feet near Ridgway, CO, at the foot of the Sneffels range. It was acquired by Ouray County in 2002 from the BLM and the Grand Junction Chipeta chapter of the Girl Scouts when they decided it was no longer feasible for them to maintain a camp there. The property is managed by Top of the Pines, Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit, under contract with Ouray County for this purpose. The agreement with the BLM and the County requires that the property be open for use by groups who make reservations in the summer, but in the winter the open space preserve has six kilometers of trails open to the public for snowshoeing and cross country skiing. This has been a successful arrangement, with use increasing as the property is improved.
When TOP, Inc., took over management of the property in 2002, the buildings were all in serious disrepair, and a good deal of debris littered the site. We had one small water storage tank, a decaying 40-year-old building originally used as a dining facility, inadequate electrical wiring and plumbing, no parking, unusable toilet facilities and an access road in need of repair. The Girl Scouts had essentially abandoned the property for decades, with no maintenance or oversight during that period.
Recognizing the reality of such a large restoration project, TOP, Inc., adopted a phased development approach.
In Phase 1, funded by GOCO in 2007, we began restoring the basic infrastructure, which included working on the pavilion foundation and enclosing it, as well as improving toilet facilities and utilities.
In Phase 2, the under the GOCO grant application submitted in 2013, we need to complete the interior of the pavilion and enclose the warming hut so that it can be used as an additional break-out room for environmental education groups and as an amenity for skiers and snowshoers, making it a year round facility. We will also build three yurt platforms and install three yurts, two that will be twenty-five feet in diameter and one that will be thirty feet in diameter. We will also build eight campsites and one large concrete fire pit for the campsite. A rustic shower facility with four sinks and four showers, which will have solar heated water, will also be built. The wood building for the composing toilets and the composting toilets will be renovated. Underground utilities will be extended to the warming hut, shower house, yurts and campsite. And a section of Highland Road going to Top of the Pines will be graded and filled where the road has deteriorated and has poor drainage.
With these improvements, we will be able to provide adequate and much needed space for outdoor and environmental education for the population, especially the youth, of the local community and region. With the revenue we generate from user groups and continued fund raising efforts, we will continue upgrades and expansion as needed.