Summit County Open Space & Trails to begin collecting public input on master plan
Engagement opportunities include a photo contest, workshops and interviews
The Summit County Open Space and Trails Department last adopted a comprehensive plan in 1996, and it focused on acquiring land to build out a trails system that now supports a record-breaking number of visitors and residents alike.
Now, 25 years later, the Open Space and Trails department is in the process of creating and adopting a new master plan that will outline the county’s goals moving forward for the next three decades.
At the Summit Board of County Commissioners’ work session Tuesday, Aug. 3, Jeremy Call presented preliminary plans for what the public engagement process will look like as county staff and its partners begin drafting this new plan. Call is principal of environmental planning for Fort Collins-based Logan Simpson, a landscape architecture and environmental planning firm that was hired to help the county in its efforts to build out the document.
Focus group interviews, a visioning questionnaire, a photo contest, stakeholder interviews, outreach events, public meetings and more will all be used to collect input, said Call. The team also plans to launch an email address created specifically for collecting input regarding the master plan.
Of all the ideas, the commissioners especially favored the photo contest, which will be used to build a database of photos that show what areas community residents enjoy the most.
“This document will really shape the community’s vision for our future and also document where we are today and have some mention for how we got there as well,” said Summit County Community Development Director Jim Curnutte. “It’ll be the community’s vision for where we go forward from here.”
In addition to outlining the methods used, Call asked the county commissioners for feedback on what groups should be included in this process. Some of these include nonprofits like Mountain Dreamers, The Cycle Effect, Friends of the Dillon Ranger District, High Country Conservation Center, SOS Outreach and more.
The purpose of the presentation was also to gather feedback from the county commissioners regarding their open space priorities. Commissioners included equitable access across the county at the top of the list.
“I’m thinking about access, equity and…usability,” said Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence. “There (was) a really great story on Colorado Public Radio last night about folks in the outdoors from all backgrounds. … It was so wonderful to listen to, and I really wish that Summit County in some way could be a leader in that.”
Lawrence noted that the story from Colorado Public Radio brought up a mile-long boardwalk trail that was made for people with disabilities and that she wanted to see something similar in Summit County. Lawrence also noted that in Breckenridge there are many portals and access points to trails within neighborhoods, and she’d like to see this effort across the county.
Commissioner Tamara Pogue also brought up equitable access as it relates to winter activities, and Lawrence agreed this was one of her priorities too.
“Not everyone can afford to buy an Epic Pass or go up on the mountain, so instead how can they enjoy winter recreation on our public land in a different way, in a more cost effective way?” Lawrence asked.
In addition to increasing equitable access to trails and open spaces, all three commissioners voiced other priorities. Commissioner Josh Blanchard said he’d like to see how new trails could connect to surrounding counties. Pogue said she was interested in exploring how to mitigate some of the overcrowded parking at various trailheads as well as creating new areas for people to recreate safely if they were developing new skills. Lawrence also liked the idea of conducting more education around Leave No Trace principles, especially as the county’s trails continue to see an increased number of visitors.
All three commissioners also agreed that they’d like to see trails diversified in terms of how they’re used. For example, they brought up that a trail that’s used for both mountain biking and by family hikers creates safety concerns for both types of users.
Moving forward, Call noted that some of these priorities focused on maintaining the county’s existing trails and that the open space and trails department will need resources in the future to adequately keep up with visitor demand.
According to Call’s presentation, individuals can expect to begin giving public input within the next couple of months. The plan will be completed in March 2022.
According to the county’s request for proposals for the master plan, Summit County currently owns and manages over 17,000 acres of land, over 100 trailheads and trail portals, 100 miles of natural-surface trails, 50 miles of dirt roads and 35 miles of paved recreational pathways.
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