Breckenridge Fairy Forest to be removed as town closes Four O’Clock trail for restoration
BRECKENRIDGE — The town of Breckenridge plans to remove the Fairy Forest community art installation from the Four O’Clock trail, drawing praise from some who said the area had become a trash heap and ire from others who consider the place magical for children.
According to a town Facebook post, the work is expected to begin this summer on the Four O’Clock trail, which can be found off the Four O’Clock run at Breckenridge Ski Resort.
The town’s post stated that the growing popularity of the area has caused damage to the trail and surrounding forest, where what was once singletrack is now up to 30 feet across in some areas. Additions to the Fairy Forest, which includes small houses for mythical forest creatures, also have left many unnatural materials on the trail, including plastic. In addition to removing the Fairy Forest, the town plans to revegetate the area and narrow the trail.
“In general, we very much want folks to enjoy our open space properties, but it is the town and our open space philosophy to practice ‘leave no trace’ principles, and unfortunately the Fairy Forest really sets the wrong example and goes against so many of our (regulations) and practices on that,” Breckenridge Open Space and Trails Manager Anne Murphy said.
The “leave no trace” principles Murphy mentions include disposing of waste properly and respecting wildlife.
Murphy explained that the Fairy Forest started out as a community art installation using natural materials but grew to “unimaginable heights” after it was popularized by social and news media in the past few years. Murphy said the Fairy Forest has caused a lot of resource damage.
“We went back to the understanding that this is actually not a town open space, we don’t actually own the underlying land, and we had more or less a handshake agreement to construct a trail and maintain the trail through there,” Murphy said. “So the Fairy Forest — especially when it got so, so large over the last couple of years — just really goes against that, and the area needs time to recover.”
The plan is to close the trail this spring and summer to do revegetation work and for the town to try to get a more formal agreement with the landowners so it can retain trail access, Murphy said.
“We’re really hoping that we can facilitate some kind of community solution because we know how important and exciting this Fairy Forest was for so many families, and we support that creativity and imagination and are just trying to work with partners to see what solutions we might offer,” Murphy said.
Murphy explained that the town is moving toward doing more temporary art installations, such as those that occur during the 10-day Breckenridge International Festival of Arts. Murphy said the town is exploring something similar for a temporary Fairy Forest that could include storytelling and chalk art.
The town’s trails team typically starts working on trails in the middle of May, Murphy said, and the Fairy Forest section of the Four O’Clock trail will be one of the first closures. A reroute around the closure will be available.
As for the sentiment of taking the Fairy Forest down, the town’s Facebook post received more than 40 comments. Some commenters were in favor of the decision, supporting “leave no trace principles,” while others shared how their children and grandchildren had enjoyed the Fairy Forest and would be sad to see it go. Similar sentiments were echoed on the local Facebook page One Man’s Junk.
Murphy said reactions have varied.
“It’s been kind of a mixed bag of emotions,” Murphy said. “I think some people definitely admire the ‘leave no trace’ principles and like that philosophy as they’re out recreating and using open spaces and trails. And other folks … especially during the pandemic, are desperate to find fun activities for their kids.”
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