Big plans for Frisco’s Backyard
The land bordering Frisco’s southwest neighborhoods could see improvements for both trails and wildfire mitigation.
The area to the south of town along Miners Creek, dubbed “Frisco’s Backyard,” could be on track to receive an upgrade to its trail network and wildfire fuels reduction if it is approved by the U.S. Forest Service.
“It’s a huge value to our community that we preserve and protect that area,” Frisco Senior Planner Susan Lee said, leading a group of representatives from SE Group and the U.S. Forest Service.
She said the town submitted its project proposal to the Forest Service this week.
Without exact borders, the preliminary map encompasses approximately 1,200 acres for fuel treatment around Miners Creek. The acreage grew from about 230 originally because, Ash Smith with SE Group said, fuel breaks are more effective when they link with other fuel breaks. The expanded area would link with other fuel mitigation work near Ophir Mountain and Rainbow Lake. Overall, mitigation efforts would improve firefighters’ ability to enter the area during an active wildfire.
Adam Bianchi with the Dillon Ranger District said fuel mitigation projects almost always shrink from their original map. Slope, tree types, wetland areas and other aspects of environmental analysis determine what areas actually need fuel mitigation treatment.
Smith said it would likely be at least two years from today to get boots on the ground and begin cutting trees. Removal of trees would be unlikely for 2023 since a contractor for tree removal would need to be found.
Smith characterized the trails in the area as “spaghetti,” with sporadically interwoven trails. In conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service, SE Group is looking at decommissioning some trails and legitimizing others. Trails will be evaluated by use, redundancy and Elk management areas.
The town would work with Friends of the Dillon Ranger District and the Forest Service to secure funding for maintenance of the new trails.
Bianchi said he thinks it’s possible to find sustainable funding. State and federal policy makers have indicated support for fuel mitigation projects, he said, although a decent portion of such money is directed at the Front Range.
“This is our bread and butter. We’re used to doing this work,” he said.
Frisco Mayor Hunter Mortensen said he’s spoken with Summit County’s state representatives and stressed the importance of these projects.
“Having shovel-ready projects is incredibly effective for getting funds released,” Smith said.
The town budgeted $150,000 directly for the Backyard Project in its 2022 budget. Another $200,000 was earmarked for wildfire mitigation efforts in general, some of which could go toward the project.
SE Group’s next steps are to refine its proposal with the U.S. Forest Service, estimate the cost of a larger treatment area and prepare for public scoping in October. Currently, SE Group is conducting fieldwork related to the project.
The project still needs to go through a National Environmental Policy Act review. Public comment will likely be fielded around late fall of 2022. Assuming the review process continues on track, an environmental review decision is expected around May 2023, Smith said.
Earlier this year, Town Council approved its contract with SE Group, an engineering consultant located in Frisco, to develop a proposal for U.S. Forest Service consideration of trail and resource management in the Frisco’s Backyard area.
Following the Forest Service’s approval, the consultant team will manage the resource surveys, mapping and scoping work associated with the national environmental review process. The contract awarded to SE Group will not exceed $240,500, the town stated in a staff report.
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