Consultants in a pickle over Cucumber Gulch rec plan |

Consultants in a pickle over Cucumber Gulch rec plan

BRECKENRIDGE – Citizens hold mixed opinions about a recreational master plan resource planners are creating for the Cucumber Gulch wetlands area on Peak 8, if sentiments expressed at a recent meeting in Breckenridge are any indication.

Natural resources planners are seeking input on uses and issues in Cucumber Gulch on Peak 8 prior to a Dec. 9 meeting where they will solicit more comments from citizens who use the area.

It’s part of the development of a master plan being formulated for the area by Scott Babcock, a planner with ERO Resources of Denver, landscape architect Dean Pearson of The Architerra Group of Littleton and Breckenridge trails planners. The plan is required under the town’s overlay protection district outlined in 2000.

Consultants are considering many elements as they develop the plan, including current recreational uses on the 229 acres there, adjacent and encroaching development and the biological resources in the gulch.

Included in those biological resources are arctic fens and boreal toad – identified by the state as an endangered species – habitat. According to Babcock, researchers have found breeding populations of the toads in the gulch.

The goal of the master plan – which some have said should be a “nonrecreation” master plan – is to protect sensitive resources, formalize recreational uses in the area and provide a five- to 10-year management plan for the town.

Babcock and Pearson distributed surveys seeking input about the gulch at the first of three meetings last month. Surveys asked respondents to prioritize possible amenities in the gulch, ranging from existing Nordic and hiking trails to scenic overlooks and interpretive nature centers.

Some elements will be addressed regardless, including the intertwining trails that run through the area – and that change each summer as beavers in the gulch alter their dams and the ponds behind them.

Winter Nordic trails are pretty well established, but many redundant summer social trails – basically short-cuts – might need to be eliminated to reduce impacts in the area.

“This is a topic we’re called upon to do when we do recreation plans,” Babcock said. “(In most plans), we need to come up with the best ways to get from point A to point B. Here, it’s mostly refining and narrowing down some alignments.”

Consultants have already inventoried the conditions in the gulch, met with stakeholders in the area, identified issues of interest and concern and explored potential summer trail design standards, such as boardwalks, bridges and overlooks. Now, they are gathering public input to develop management goals and formalize trail alignments.

Citizens at the first meeting said they realize the wetlands will see more and more use in the future but that preservation of natural resources should be of utmost importance.

“We need to protect the natural resources and leave the rest alone,” said Jeffrey Bergeron, a Peak 8 resident. “We don’t need to do anything there. I think the mind set is that, since this is our land, we need to do something. Our first priority should be protection.”

That’s the balancing act open space and trails planners face.

Increasing use in the wetlands area – including illegal fishing and dogs bounding through the water and defecating in the woods – must be addressed. Consultants will also determine how extensive trails networks will be and how many features, such as overlooks and interpretive centers, can be implemented without negatively impacting wildlife and wetlands there.

Babcock said he hopes to present a draft plan at the end of January and the final plan by late March.

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or

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