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For more than three decades, Jim Slagle has been designing and constructing local trails

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO:  - The gently flowing Cache La Poudre River, lined with beautiful fall aspen foliage near Fort Collins, Colo., is where a young Jim Slagle first gained his love for the outdoors and a thirst to follow a trail he finds or design and build one if it doesnt exist. Jim Slagle, a well-known resident of the Park Crest neighborhood, south of Meinig Park, has lived in this local area since 1975 — in Sandy since 1981.

He has been an outdoors person since his childhood in Fort Collins, Colo., where he spent countless hours in the outdoor environment near the Cache La Poudre River. His forte has and always will be improved access to the outdoors.

by: POST PHOTO: JIM HART - Jim Slagle stands near the trail he designed and built in the early 1980s, leading into Meinig Park from the Park Crest neighborhood, where he lives. The stairs were installed when he was adviser to an Eagle Scout trail improvement project about 15 years ago.For that reason, it is appropriate to call him a trail man. He began his 40 years of service to the U.S. Forest Service in the Umatilla National Forest, naturally, on a trail crew.

“(Building trails) gave me a sense of accomplishment,” he said. “While we were working on a trail, I would see people out there enjoying their time on the trail.”

He gained much of his trail expertise while building, relocating, maintaining and designing new trails — because the Forest Service was in charge of all of that in national parks.

Much of Slagle’s emphasis is on making trails sustainable, which means preventing erosion and preserving the habitat near the trail so it lasts for years with minor maintenance. He also focuses on locating trails near specific sites such as springboard stumps, nurse trees, spectacular viewpoints or waterfalls to make the walk more interesting for hikers.

Slagle also seeks natural trails made by wild animals that have traveled straight up and down a slope, causing erosion. In those areas, he’ll repair the erosion and cut a new sustainable trail around the slope, which the animals will begin to use.

Working for the Forest Service, Slagle has created and improved trails in a number of national forests such as Gifford-Pinchot, Umatilla and Umpqua. He retired about 15 years ago but continued consulting on trail design.

“I was involved in construction of trails (for the Forest Service),” Slagle said, “and that was really a help in being able to figure out how to locate a trail. You learn by trial and error.”

In the Sandy area, he has volunteered to design, construct and maintain trails in Sandy River Park and Meinig Park as well as the Tickle Creek Trail. And while hiking any of those trails, he records places that need maintenance and passes that information onto Sandy’s Parks Department.

Another trail that still brings him a sense of pride is his work relocating the Dog Mountain Trail, making it sustainable by eliminating nearly all of the erosion.

“It makes me feel really good today when I drive by the trailhead and see nearly 100 cars parked there on Memorial Day. I feel good about being able to contribute.”

He still volunteers for trail design and location within Sandy River Park, and says he is excited about the possibility of connecting the Tickle Creek Trail with the Springwater Corridor Trail.

It is still to be seen, but the 76-year-old Slagle is now talking about this being the last year of his consulting business. He says he wants to focus on volunteering wherever he can contribute.

But let there be no doubt that Slagle is a trail man. Just walk by his home and enjoy the view of a short trail leading through his front yard — it even has one sustainable switchback.

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