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Golden Horseshoe awaits the best of Summit’s thinking

TARA FLANAGANspecial to the daily
Tara Flanagan, columnist
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It’s a Jerry Springer freeze frame that’ll stay with me forever.A few years back, I was skiing up Shrine Pass and encountered four backcountry skiers screaming obscenities while they scrambled for something to soak up the blood from a fallen comrade’s face. He’d been on the losing end of a fist fight with the driver of a very large off-road vehicle, and was not looking his best. “Thun uf a bish,” he yelled through broken teeth as the man spun a victory donut and headed back to the parking lot. The skier’s highly righteous, PC friends dove into the fray by hurling bad words in the driver’s direction, and let’s just say that nobody appeared to have read Miss Manners that morning.

Far as I know, there was no law against either party being there and then. (I guess nobody thought it was possible for the vehicle to get where it got in the middle of winter, hence there was nothing prohibiting its use.) Anyway, both groups were using public land as they preferred, and each believed they were right. This is a worst-case scenario when we talk about trail policy and sending distinctly different user expectations into a popular trail system, but when you’re planning, you’ve got to anticipate those times when gearheads and granolaheads come to loggerheads.Anyway, I got a good feeling Monday night as various county citizens sorted themselves into three advisory groups that will create the eventual use policies for the Golden Horseshoe parcel. If you’re new here, it encompasses about 9,000 acres, including the parcel recently acquired by the town of Breckenridge and Summit County. It’s an incredible piece of public land that links to similarly fine public lands, and we all should wake up each morning and kneel to the Public Land gods, grateful that the space will not become, say, a landfill or very large mall.That’s not to say the Horseshoe doesn’t have challenges ahead of it. Here’s a sampling of the interests represented on Monday night: Dirtbikers, mountain bikers, nearby homeowners, horseback riders, hikers, educators, cross country square dancers (just checking to see if you’re still with us), representatives of the U.S. Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service, lodging folks, curious longtime locals, skiers, snowshoers, dog walkers, people into historic preservation, and folks who want to keep an eye on the Horseshoe’s natural assets. Everyone there was quite respectful of the other parties, but that’s still a whole lot of historic preservation, natural asset stuff and oft-conflicting recreation to pack into any one place.

And that parcel already has its stress points, being one of the most popular places to do what you do in Summit County. Expect some trails to close, while other trails will have their use changed.So now the consensus planning starts. Each group (the groups being recreation, natural resources and historic resources) has some ground rules, with the expectation that no group is going to get every minute piece of its wish. As well, there is a guideline that groups stay out of the “over my dead body” category of working out an idea (yes, such a category was presented Monday night).Similarly, the public has to understand that compromise is part of the deal. Would I love to have a horse trail where I never encounter an ATV, mountain bike, or half-there cell phone user (I do not mean to equate the generally thoughtful first two with the latter)? You bet. Will that trail materialize? Uh, we’ll see.

There were more people at Monday’s meeting than the 25-30 committee slots, so I’m guessing that those who were selected really want to do the work that’s ahead of them. We’ve got to trust that their interests and instincts dovetail with what’s best for the land and what’s best for the people using the land. I think our job right now is to let them be creative (and of course, enact my personal wish to ban non-emergency cell phone use in the GH, with a first-time fine of $10,000 and mandatory five years’ prison time).And yes. There will be opportunity for public input. One of the best ways to get in the loop and make things happen is to call the county’s open space department and get on the e-mail list. That’s (970) 668-4060.Tara Flanagan writes a Wednesday column. She can be contacted at flanaganatlarge@yahoo.com.


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