Golden Horseshoe trails may get special attention
BRECKENRIDGE – U.S. Forest Service officials said they are willing to consider the Golden Horseshoe area differently from the rest of the agency’s Travel Management Plan that dictates uses on trails in the forest.The Travel Management Plan is part of the White River National Forest Plan, which is updated every 10 to 15 years and addresses acceptable uses in the national forest. The travel portion of the plan specifically addresses trails and their uses.Forest Service officials have a list of trails proposed to be included in its system, but many popular ones are missing. If they aren’t listed by Oct. 31 to be considered for inclusion in the Forest Service system, the trails will be closed. The only way to reopen them is to put them through an extensive environmental-impact process.Town officials are concerned specifically about trails on property owned by B&B Mines in the Golden Horseshoe. The Golden Horseshoe is the horseshoe-shaped area that begins in the Swan Mountain drainage and straddles the mountains into French Gulch east of Breckenridge.The town and county are under contract to purchase the B&B property and are evaluating the environmental hazards at mill and mine sites before closing on the $9 million deal.Town planners are mapping the numerous trails in the area to determine which should remain open and to whom. Officials also have asked the Forest Service to consider letting the town develop its own management plan for those trails and to include them in the Forest Service’s system once the town buys the property.Usually, any trail not included in the Forest Service’s trails system must undergo an extensive – and costly and time-consuming – environmental analysis under the auspices of the National Environmental Policy Act. Town officials would like to avoid that by including its management plan for the Golden Horseshoe in the travel management plan once the town and county acquire the land.”We have some creative ideas how we can make it work for the Golden Horseshoe area, but we haven’t worked it through at the planning level,” said Dillon District Ranger Jamie Connell. “We’ll figure something out.”One of those ideas involves removing the Golden Horseshoe area from the Travel Management process, she said.”The concern there is that could require additional delays, and we’d rather get as much done as we can now,” she said.Timing is critical, as well. Forest Service officials hope to have the draft Travel Management Plan by December 2003. If the town and county can acquire the B&B property before it is approved, the town’s management plan could be folded into the Forest Service’s Travel Management Plan.”We can’t do that all over the county, just in the areas where we have an ongoing initiative of acquiring access,” she said. “We know it can be frustrating for the local community because they’re working toward the acquisition of these lands. We’re going to do our best to blend the two things together. Over the long run, we’ll make it work.”Breckenridge open space planners outlined a detailed list of concerns – primarily involving the Forest Service’s “closed unless posted open” trail policy – in a letter to Forest Service officials.”We feel that any of the existing Forest Service trails linking to those of the town should remain open,” the letter states. “There needs to be substantive, scientific evidence indicating that the environmental impacts of use on any of these trails necessitate its closure.”Connell said the “closed unless posted open” policy is a national directive that will provide consistency across national forest, Bureau of Land Management and Park Service lands.Many wonder how the Forest Service, which is woefully understaffed and underfunded, will install signs – much less enforce trail closures.”It will be a struggle, but that’s what we’re committed to do,” Connell said. “It’s the most enforceable once we get it implemented. If someone removes a sign, they’ve closed the route. Most concerns are with our ability to get things posted quickly.”Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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