Proposed Summit County trail system gets tentative environmental go-ahead
The U.S. Forest Service’s White River National Forest office in Glenwood Springs this week announced it has finished its review of an amended environmental assessment for a proposed dirt-bike trail in Summit County.
The Tenderfoot Mountain Motorcycle Trail System project proposes 21 miles of single-track trails on Tenderfoot Mountain at the juncture of the Straight Creek and Frey Gulch trailheads in the Dillon Ranger District.
The proposed project would include 13 miles of new trail construction and about 8 miles of reconstructed user-created trails in the area. Other user-created and non-system trails would be closed and rehabilitated regardless of whether White River National Forest officials decide to move forward with the project.
The Tenderfoot Mountain Motorcycle Trail System project was proposed to provide a managed system of trails that would be open to both motorized and non-motorized uses. Many of the trails in the area were created by riders and have not been officially maintained, according to a White River National Forest office news release.
However, the project has long been a source of controversy with proponents arguing for a managed trail system to serve local riders and enhance recreational opportunities in Summit County. Opponents of the trail system raised issues about impacts to local wildlife, increased noise for local homeowners and concerns the trail would become a regional draw for riders living outside of Summit County.
In March, following substantial public comment to the draft environmental assessment, U.S. Forest Service and Summit County representatives convened a 21-member task force comprising county and state officials, homeowners association members, trail users and environmental advocates to negotiate compromises and draft a new recommendation for the White River National Forest office.
Among the changes suggested by the task force:
• Reducing the size of the Frey Gulch trailhead parking area to a half acre
• Reducing impacts to big game rifle hunting by closing the trail system to motorized uses starting Oct. 10, while the roads in the area and an ATV route to Tenderfoot Mountain would remain open
• Reducing impacts to elk calving by imposing seasonal closures to motorized use on approximately one-third of the trail system
• Reducing noise impacts to local residents by limiting motorized use to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily on the whole trail system and implementing “closed throttle zones” to reduce speeds near the trailheads
• Reducing environmental impacts by limiting recreation events, such as motorcycle, mountain bike or running races, to 50 participants with no more than two events per year
“The recommendations from the task force for changes to the proposed action represent a well-thought-out compromise that considered all opinions and concerns,” said Dillon district ranger Jan Cutts in a written statement. “I am confident that the issues have been mitigated to the greatest extent possible while allowing for a legitimate use of the national forest.”
The new environmental assessment is available for view online at http://www.fs.usda.gov/projects/whiteriver/landmanagement/projects.
The White River National Forest office is accepting further comments about the new proposal, but only from people who participated in drafting the new recommendation.
Information about how to submit a comment or an objection to the proposal also is available online.
Bill Kight, public affairs officer for the White River National Forest, said if there are no further objections, the new environmental assessment would be presented to White River National Forest supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams, who has final say on the project.
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