October became a big month for off-road motorcycle riders on Tuesday, as the Forest Service initiated the evaluation process for the Tenderfoot Mountain Motorcycle Trails System, which could add nearly 30 miles of trail on Tenderfoot Mountain to the recently revised White River National Forest travel management plan.
Due to an oversight in the travel management plan process, 15 to 20 miles of existing trails on Tenderfoot Mountain weren't inventoried along with the roads and the rest of the travelways in the White River National Forest and therefore weren't considered for inclusion, Dillon Ranger District recreation staff officer Ken Waugh said. Now, he's working with Summit County Off-Road Riders (SCORR) to design an approved trail system in the area.
Under the current Forest Service travel management plan, which was approved in May 2010 after roughly seven years of work, motorcycle riders have just six miles of trail available to them in the Golden Horseshoe area, Waugh said. Previously, they accessed roughly 50 miles of terrain in that area, even though motorcycle riding wasn't an approved use under the former travel management plan. Forest Service roads were and still may be used, adding available mileage, but Waugh likened riding on dirt roads to hiking them - it doesn't feel as adventurous.
SCORR president Chuck Ginsberg said his group is footing the bill and promoting the plan.
"Right now, there are 30 miles in the travel management plan that will all be closed. Where do you think people will go?" he said.
Ginsberg said it's not uncommon for people of all recreational styles to "go places they shouldn't," so he wants to encourage a legal place for dirtbikers to ride.
"We need a place to go like everyone else," he said.
About three years ago, SCORR procured a $175,000 Colorado OHV Grant to fund the NEPA process of evaluating impacts of creating these trails, Ginsberg said. However, the project was put on hold until the travel management plan was approved. Waugh said the group's officials were directed to use the money to fund necessary studies for the NEPA analysis, such as botany, archeological, wetland and wildlife surveys. That data will be used in the NEPA process.
The proposal, if approved, would incorporate about 15 miles of existing trail, and 15 miles of trail could be added to the system and would be open to multi-use, including non-motorized uses. Roughly 15 miles of existing trail would be decommissioned and rehabilitated. As part of the travel management plan's inventory and evaluation process, trails were selected for closure if their condition was bad enough that bringing them up to par would cost too much.
"The goal is to change an unmanaged, expanding system of mostly steep, eroded user-created trails to a managed, finite system of sustainable, well-designed, trails," a Forest Service press release read.
The project area encompasses some 4,000 acres of Forest Service lands in the Dillon Ranger District, adjacent to the Town of Dillon on the northeast side of Highway 6. The trail system would be accessible from two forest roads: Straight Creek and Frey Gulch. The Straight Creek trailhead exists currently and would need no modification. The Frey Gulch trailhead would be accessed via the Landfill Road. This proposed trailhead would be constructed a quarter-mile east of the existing Forest Service gate on Frey Gulch Road (66). It would be approximately 4,000 square feet and would have a capacity of about 15 vehicles with trailers.
"This designation is consistent with management area prescriptions within the project area," Waugh said. "It is very important to note that this proposal does not include the Tenderfoot or Oro Grande Trails, which are only open to non-motorized uses."
Waugh said it's not a given the trails will be approved, as many residents on and near Tenderfoot Mountain oppose the use in their "backyard." However, he said many trails are far away from homes, and noise studies show the highway and chirping birds almost completely drown out the drone of a running engine.
Now that the process is underway, the Forest Service wants feedback on the proposal to build the 30 miles of single-track in the Tenderfoot area.
If approved, implementation of the project would be managed by the Forest Service. Construction would likely begin in June of 2012. Implementation would be dependent on available funding such as grants. The project could be completed within three to six years.
Comments are due by Nov. 20 and should include a name, address, telephone number and organization represented, if any, as well as the title of the project. They can be mailed to Scott Fitzwilliams, c/o Ken Waugh, Dillon Ranger District, P.O. Box 620, Silverthorne, CO 80498; faxed to (970) 468-7735; or emailed to email@example.com.