Badge of Honor Earned Along the Mineral Belt Trail
By Kathy Bedell
Happy 13th Anniversary to Leadville’s Mineral Belt Trail!
The story of the Mineral Belt Trail (MBT) is one of great community collaboration, with everyone working towards a common goal.
So many locals and visitors use the trail daily. Everyone has their favorite route, or spot where they take in the view or catch their breath. To celebrate the MBT’s anniversary, here’s a story about a little known feature along this wonderful path. Let’s see how many readers already know about it!
This feature does not have an official name, nor can it be seen clearly from the paved trail, its 13-year-old sign now worn and faded by the weather and sun. This hidden gem can be found between MBT mile markers 10 & 11, the portion of the trail that has the “gold” stripe as its centerline.
“Oh yea, the Viewing Tubes,” said MBT committee member and Leadville native Howard Tritz when asked about this unique MBT feature. “It was a kid who did those, all by himself. It was his Eagle Scout badge project,” he recalled. Cool! At least now, it has an unofficial name: Viewing Tubes Park (VTP on the MBT!)
Visitors stopping at the “VTP” turnout will find a series of old-school viewing tubes, located about 40 feet off the trail. The tubes are precisely arranged to allow viewers to look through the scope, viewing a particular peak. Then peak peerers can simply look down to identify the correct name of the mountain – each of which are labeled vertically down the scope’s stand: Mt. Elbert, Mt. Massive, Mt. Sheridan, Mt. Sherman, Mt. Hope, and Mt. Galena. No more wondering; which may not be a challenge for locals but can be for visitors.
In addition to the viewing tubes, the park also has a couple of picnic tables (well-weathered, requiring a splinter-beware approach) and a bike rack. The entire park had a camoflauge theme, making it a bit challanging to see from the MBT.
So who built this peak pointer-outer? While Tritz couldn’t remember the guy’s name (maybe someone else does – let’s hear from you!), the project was done by a Leadville Boy Scout. The year was 2000; in fact, according to Tritz, the Viewing Tubes project was done congruent with the MBT construction, hoping to earn the young man a prestigious Eagle Scout Badge.
Now for those who may not know, this badge includes an extensive service project that the Scout plans, organizes, leads, and manages. The award visibly recognizes his accomplishments, in this case, providing solid geographical information to tens of thousands of folks who use the MBT every year. Job well done and the Scout surely earned his award!
So be sure to make the Viewing Tubes Park one of your stops the next time you’re out on Leadville’s Mineral Belt Trail. Happy Anniversary, MBT . . . and many more to come!
The Side Bet:
No good journalistic quest in this town comes without some kind of sidebar story. This one’s no exception. It seems when this MBT project – the Viewing Tubes Park – was being built, there was a certain local official who didn’t have a whole lotta faith in this young lad trying to earn his Eagle Scout Badge. In fact, the guy was convinced that the Scout had mixed up Mts. Sherman and Sheridan when he placed the viewing tubes for those peaks.
The overzealous official was so convinced of the error that he decided to put his money where his mouth was and see if anyone would take a $100 bet. So who had confidence in the young lad’s sense of direction? Well, Howard Tritz did!
“I said, ‘Okay it’s a deal – cause I knew that kid had it right’,” recalled Tritz. The bet was officially settled when the two men had local forest officials confirm the young scout’s correct tubing ID. Later that night, the Scout proudly accepted his Eagle Badge at the Elks Lodge!
But there was also another winner that day: the Lake County Democratic Party, who was the recipient of a $100 donation made in the name of a commissioner – from another party – who made a lousy bet against a Leadville Eagle Scout!
Now all that’s need is another $100, so the local Boy Scouts can fix the signage to the “Viewing Tubes Park” area, making it a more more easy-to-find MBT feature! It’s real cool . . . old-school!
© 2013 Leadville Today