Public input is requested as disagreements mount between Summit County officials and the U.S. Forest Service on motorized use on Tenderfoot Mountain that would allow 21 miles of recreation terrain.
The proposed project, located in the Dillon Ranger District at the juncture of the Straight Creek and Frey Gulch trailheads, would create an approximately 21-mile singletrack system including 13 miles of new trail construction and approximately 8 miles of reconstruction and rehabilitation of existing trails.
The Forest Service released an environmental assessment of the area Nov. 17 with its decision to allow the proposal to move forward to best manage the area for recreators.
Summit officials and residents have voiced concern over the proposed system's impact on wildlife and noise disturbance to close-by residents.
The trail system would offer a winding trail less than 5 percent in steep grade with challenging, narrow, rocky and winding areas, said Ken Waugh, recreation staff officer for the Dillon Ranger District.
The project is currently in a 30-day comment period that ends Dec. 17. The county and the Forest Service are seeking public input on the trail system to adequately identify the demand for the track.
This week, both entities are hosting opportunities for the public to get involved in the comment period.
An open house on the trail system will be today from 2-6 p.m. at the Dillon Ranger Station in Silverthorne. Additionally, a special meeting of the Snake River Planning Commission has been scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at Dillon Town Hall. The public meetings will allow citizens to voice their opinions on the proposed trail system.
The county has voiced opposition of the system on behalf of citizens opposed to having motorized use in the area.
"Overwhelmingly we've heard from the community at large that residents support recreational uses on Tenderfoot Mountain being limited predominantly for non-motorized use," said Kate Berg, Summit County senior planner.
"As we were going through the review process, the public and the planning commission noted some significant concerns with the proposal that had to do with impact on wildlife, the noise impeding on wildlife and residents in the surrounding area and issues with the Forest Service's ability to monitor the trail system," Berg said.
According to the Forest Service, the trails would be patrolled by Summit County Off-Road Riders as part of the Trail Ambassador program with the Friends of the Dillon Ranger District.
Volunteers would patrol the trails by motorcycle and speak to other recreators about forest stewardship with an emphasis of staying on the trail.
The trail system would also be patrolled by forest protection officers, with one patrol during the week and one during weekends.
At the start of the system, at the juncture of the Straight Creek and Frey Gulch trailheads, a Stay the Trail education trailer would be present two times per year, according to the education and law enforcement plan for the project.
But per the White River National Forest Travel Plan implemented by the county, motorized recreation is not allowed in the area.
"The county recommended that motorized singletrack not be permitted in that area and just be limited to the historic roads. What we were wanting to continue to allow is access on those roads for hunters and people camping," Berg said.
The proposed motorized trail has been a contentious issue. User-made trails have developed from multiple users over time, creating an unmanaged system, according to Waugh. Containing the area and rehabilitating unsustainable trails is the goal of the Forest Service.
"We're aware of the opposition from the county and we're trying to work toward a compromise, but we may have to agree to disagree," said Peech Keller, with the Forest Service. "The Forest Service and the county are serving two different causes and have very different constituents."
Through the environmental assessment, Forest Service officials said the impacts have been minimized.
"You can't do anything without having an impact - we feel we've reduced the impacts of this project to a very reasonable level," Keller said. "I think we've done a good job identifying the issues and I believe it's possible to come to a compromise. If necessary, we will return to take another look at the environmental analysis."
Keller said there is demand for the system and management is the Forest Service's goal in creating a venue for motorized recreators.
"There's a huge group of people who want this proposal to go through," Keller said. "We serve all of the users of this type of system - a lot of them live in the county. We're trying to best serve our constituents."
For users of current motorized trails, the motorized recreation group has limited legal terrain to utilize, according to Chuck Ginsburg, chairman of Summit County off Road Riders.
"We need a place to ride legally, a significant area in Horseshoe Gulch has been closed, it's down to six miles of legal motorized designated trail," Ginsburg said. "How many trails are dedicated to biking and hiking or walking? Motorized recreators don't have many options."
Ginsburg said SCORR identified Tenderfoot Mountain as the project area because "that's the only area that made sense to have a motorized system." He added the trail would likely be used predominantly by local recreators.
"I think the Forest Service did a great job identifying the issues," Ginsburg said. "They've taken great steps to evaluate the environmental impacts and the I think it's a great plan that's been well thought out from the beginning."