Another proposed wilderness plan in the works
EAGLE COUNTY- Some local mountain bikers are supporting a proposal that would ban mechanized and motorized uses such as mountain bikes, ATVs, motorcycles and snowmobiles in nine areas of Eagle County, while many motorcyclists and snowmobilers oppose the proposal. The Central Mountains Outdoor Heritage Proposal, sponsored by Sen. Mark Udall, would designate more than 200 square-miles of wilderness throughout Eagle County. Like the Hidden Gems campaign, Central Mountains seeks to designate lands as wilderness areas, which is one of the highest levels of protection for public lands. Such a designation would restrict mechanized and motorized sports such as mountain biking, ATVs, dirt bikes and snowmobiles. This campaign is still in the proposal stage, where the Colorado senator is accepting comments and input from the community before a formal bill is drafted.Steve Novy, who represents the mountain biking coalition BIKEWILD from the Roaring Fork Valley, supports Central Mountains because only a half-mile of mountain biking trail would be closed in Eagle County, he said. “I think there was a lot of knee-jerk reaction where people are just thinking about what happened in the past, that they have to stand up for mountain bikers,” he said. “… We’re not losing much of anything – what we gain is that we set this land aside for everyone to use.”The International Mountain Biking Association, which represents more than 80,000 members and 700 clubs worldwide, also supports wilderness designation. The biking association has been working with the Udall staff to mark boundaries for potential wilderness areas that minimize the impact on established biking trials. The association’s communications director Mark Eller said Udall’s staff has been receptive to their boundary suggestions.For example, the boundary in Spraddle Creek ends along the Son of Middle Creek trail and Lost Lake trail. However, one section of mountain biking trails – half a mile of the Stag Gulch trail – would become off limits in the proposed area near West Lake Creek. County snowmobilers, however, feel Udall’s staff has not counted them in the proposal process.The proposed area in Freeman Creek encroaches trails that snowmobilers ride and groom, according to Lance Trujillo, the president of the Holy Cross Powder Hounds snowmobiling club. While mountain biking, horseback riding and hiking trails are included on Senator Udall’s area maps, snowmobile trails are missing.”Some of our club members have gone and reached out to his aids (saying) that we did want to meet with Udall’s staff,” Trujillo said. “We have not heard back from them and other snowmobile clubs have had this problem.”While not directly affected by the area boundaries, Rocky Mountain Sports Riders, a Colorado dirt bike and motorcycle club, also oppose the proposal based on their own philosophy of environmental stewardship and because it would restrict any future recreational development in these areas. It takes an act of Congress to reopen these lands after they become wilderness areas, and single-track trail expansion remains a dominant topic on the Sports Riders club’s agenda.The White River National Forest has 43 miles of single-track, off-road motorcycling trail. By comparison, mountain bikers have exclusive accesses to 864 miles, and hikers and horseback riders have 1,341 miles within the forest. “Wilderness proponents feel like they’re loosing ground, but we’re the ones seeing and feeling the lost grounds,” said Ben Bradford, a club officer for Rocky Mountain Sports Riders. “We’re the single most under-served group in the forest.” Jill Ozarsky, who is managing community outreach for the Udall office, was unavailable for comment.
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