Frisco set to begin major trail expansion at peninsula
There’s a lot to look forward to for hikers, bikers and Nordic skiers in Frisco, as the town will soon begin work on a five-year plan to improve and expand the trail network at the Frisco Nordic Center.
“The town council and the community of Frisco have been working on this for some time,” said Pete Swenson, Frisco Nordic Center and trails manager. “Everyone is excited to finally start moving dirt on the peninsula. … This is the last step. This is the culmination of more than three years of work.”
The trail improvements come as part of the town’s Frisco Nordic Center Master Development Plan, a document drafted in partnership with the Dillon Ranger District of the White River National Forest, meant to serve as a roadmap for the Nordic center and Peninsula Recreation Area, or PRA, over the next 20 years.
Outlined as part of the master plan is a series of trail improvements throughout the PRA, including on both town-owned land and Forest Service land, operated through Frisco as part of a special use permit. Over the next three years, the town plans to build approximately 4.4 miles of new Nordic trails, along with about 10.3 miles of summer hiking and biking trails. The project will also include improvements to existing trails (removing rocks, grading, landscaping), and decommissioning others.
“I think this will bring the trail system up to date,” said Dillon ranger Bill Jackson. “It provides more opportunity for visitors to get out and play. That’s what we’re all about, getting out there and exploring the forest, exercising and breathing the fresh air.”
Swenson said that the town is ready to begin trail work on town-owned property as soon as the snow melts, potentially as early as next week. Meanwhile, the town still needs the Forest Service to sign off on the trail expansion proposal — a process outlined in the National Environmental Policy Act — before work can begin on those lands. The NEPA process includes getting the proposal analyzed and vetted by resource specialists looking for potential negative impacts to things like water quality, soil stability, wildlife habitats, cultural resources and more.
Jackson said that similar analysis would have also occurred at the PRA in the last decade due to timber sales, so the process should move quickly. Citizens still have a chance to send in their comments on the plan to the Dillon Ranger District before it’s finalized, though, which could be as early as June 1.
“We’re certainly hopeful what’s proposed is 100% approved,” said Jackson. “There’s still room to be flexible on our decision. … But if the comments are only supportive we can move quickly.”
Swenson said that the trail system is in major need of upgrades. On the winter trails, most are either built on top of paved roads used in the summer, or old dirt and logging roads never properly graded for skiing. On the summer trails, many are converted social and deer trails. Swenson also lamented the layout of the trail system, noting a lack of loops and switchbacks.
“We love them, but if you were starting new and building a trail network, the existing trails wouldn’t be part of the plan,” said Swenson. “With the growth of the county, there are more people who want a better hiking, biking and skiing experience. The PRA is an ideal location, it makes sense to make these world-class trails for both summer and winter.”
Frisco will be working on both winter and summer trails at the same time. Assuming the Forest Service signs off on the proposal, Swenson said among others, the town would begin with building connections from the Perimeter Trail to others, along with a trail running parallel to Peninsula Road. In regards to Nordic trails, they’ll start with east-west connectors, adding loops to existing trails.
“We want to build completed segments and loops,” said Swenson. “We would like to build them in chunks so that every couple months you can find a new loop. As a skier you’re going to have more loops and connections to the existing network. Every year it will ski a lot bigger … and this is going to be quite the hot spot for summer trail use in a couple years.”
Swenson and his two-man team will take on the construction themselves, building the trails by hand with the help of a mini-excavator. However, Swenson said there would be a number of volunteer trail days this summer for anyone looking to help out.
Those interested in checking out the master development plan, including maps of proposed trail enhancements and expansions, can find it on the town’s website. Additionally, citizens wanting to comment on the proposal should submit written comments to forest supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams at the Dillon Range District at PO Box 620 in Silverthorne before May 15. Comments can also be submitted electronically at Bit.ly/2UYYsXt.
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