By Owen Woods | email@example.com
The trail construction and stewardship began in 2019, with the completion of the bridge that crosses the Westside Ditch. The Toivo Malm trailhead is on South River Road, less than a quarter mile from the Alamosa Recycling Center. Its trails span nearly 3 miles, connecting as far east as the Chicago Dam.
Mick Daniel introduced Linda Malm, daughter of Toivo Malm. Linda Malm donated $50,000 for this project, and helped name the different branches of the trail – Ginny’s Crossing, Donn’s Refuge Run, Martha’s River Rest, and Judith’s View – which are named after her sister, husband, mother, and dear friend.
“I could see what they mean when they say it is better to give when the hand is warm. Because we have just walked this area and it’s moved me so greatly,” she said.
TOIVO Malm was the son of Finnish immigrants who owned a small farm outside the town of Fitchburg, Massachusetts. Toivo grew up there, and spent a lot of time on the river. In his later life he worked as a boring mill operator for a General Electric plant in Fitchburg. He made turbines for submarines during World War II.
“His job was so precise, he was so careful, that his last task when he retired was to train computer engineers on how to do his job, just to give you a sense of how precise it was. After he retired, after a lifetime at General Electric, he was given a little, brown, plastic clock radio.” Linda Malm let it hang in the air, and it was met with laughter.
Toivo died shortly after retiring.
Malm went on to tell how her father’s grave marker was a tree, and that some years later the tree died and was cut down, leaving him in an unmarked grave.
“My family never had money to travel for vacation, but we loved the outdoors. We had a river that ran through town, like most industrial towns. My dad used to skate on it and fish on it when he was a boy, and by the time I was a child it already was so polluted it was grey. It didn’t freeze it was so full of stuff, and in the summer it smelled terribly. But he lived to also see it get restored and to catch trout again,” she said.
Malm told how important these trails would have been to her father, and left everyone with one final thought: “I hope your good health, curiosity about nature, and appreciation of this grand river that you have will be enhanced by these trails.”
John Rowinksi spoke of the importance of the Toivo Malm trails to bird watchers. Cottonwood and Russian Olive trees along the trails house bird species and the river is a vital source of insect protein for birds. Within the Toivo Malm trails alone, there are 129 documented species of birds that have been observed since 2019.
Rowinksi also helped the site be nominated as an EBird hotspot. This makes the Toivo Malm trails a global destination for birders.
State Rep. Donald Valdez was in attendance and praised efforts to preserve the San Luis Valley’s water, history and culture. He highlighted the importance of these trails and the positive impact they have on our wildlife and environment.
Mayor Ty Coleman also said a few words. “It takes a team effort to make something like that happen in a community like ours,” he said. “The acronym T.E.A.M stands for Together Everyone Achieves More.”
The ribbon was cut, and John Rowinksi led a bird tour through the trails.
Mick Daniel stayed behind to see everyone off. He told The Citizen, “Ideally, this would be the eastern terminus of the entire Alamosa trail network.”
The Alamosa trail network is in segments now, due to different land ownerships and private properties that border the river. The vision is to have all the trails connected throughout the city of Alamosa, reaching out to the wildlife refuge.
“When we work with the city and the feds and private individuals, and we all come together with an idea and a shared passion, it just takes time, but the end result is something that ends up being really cool,” Daniel said.