County’s concerns with travel management plan are minor
BRECKENRIDGE – The Summit County commissioners don’t have major concerns about the White River National Forest Travel Management scoping process, they agreed.
But they are commenting to the Forest Service that the “closed unless open” trails policy should not be applied to trails that are major connections or serve “a broader recreational function.”
The commissioners also are suggesting that horse and foot traffic on trails be segregated.
The county commissioners letter reads: “The board recommends seasonal and permanent closures to horses on trails where significant impacts to physical resources are likely to occur.”
Commissioner Tom Long said he’s particularly concerned about the damage outfitters can cause.
“The Forest Service makes centralized entry points for outfitters,” he said, “which is OK, but it also puts all the stress on that one, central entry point. The Forest Service really creates the issue. It (the use) impacts that area heavily, and then you have people complaining that horses are doing all this damage. My point is, we need to prevent the damage but preserve the ability to use the horse.”
Long said outfitters can’t be blamed for all the wear and tear.
“Those outfitters really do tear things up, but in the spring, when the elk come back, they tear things up, too,” he said.
“We would encourage more horse traffic versus motorized traffic, but at the same time, we think it’s the responsibility of the Forest Service to inform outfitters of the damage they do,” said County Commissioner Gary Lindstrom, who also pointed out that the numbers of backcountry horse riders are dwindling.
“Every day, we’re seeing fewer and fewer outfitters and less and less use of horses in the backcountry,” he said.
The Forest Service is taking comments from the public, gathering an inventory of trails and roads and looking for ideas on how uses on those trails should be designated in the Travel Management Plan.
The commissioners are signing a letter drafted by county Open Space staff members, including comments about the plan.
“The Forest Service is looking at every road and trail,” open space planner Holly English told the commissioners. “They’re going to make decisions on what is open and what is closed.”
English referred to a planned policy that will designate as closed trails not included in the agency’s inventory. Under the proposal, users can assume a trail is closed unless it is posted as open. Forest Service officials are evaluating each county trail closely to see how use impacts the environment, an important factor in the types of uses allowed on those routes.
The deadline to comment on trail uses and closures was Oct. 31.
By contrast, members of Breckenridge’s Open Space Advisory Commission are upset about the “closed unless designated open policy,” saying it will be difficult to enforce.
County commissioners said they’d like to see a day-use-only restriction on Frey Gulch Road near the county landfill. That designation, they said, would eliminate illegal dumping in the National Forest after the landfill is closed for the day, minimize hunting in the area and provide more security for the landfill.
They also recommended restricting the use of full-sized vehicles on Tenderfoot Road, which leads to the landfill. The commissioners also encouraged the Forest Service to separate motorized and nonmotorized uses as much as possible.
Overall, however, the commissioners had few concerns with trails management.
Open Space Director Todd Robertson said his department is working with the Forest Service to preserve and protect public access to forest lands.
“We’re (the county) not going through and saying “this trail and this trail should be open,’ although we are submitting maps showing all the significant trails in the basin master plans for the Forest Service to consider in their decision and formulation of alternatives,” he said. “I don’t feel at all we’re in an us-versus-them confrontational (stance).”
Jane Reuter can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at email@example.com
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