Conserve, connect, collaborate: Open Space and Trails master plan public comment period ends
The time for public comment on the Open Space and Trails Department’s Master Plan Draft has closed, and the department has started to incorporate the input they’ve received.
At the Board of County Commissioners work session on Tuesday July 5, Katherine King, Summit County’s Open Space and Trails director, presented on progress the trail department has made on their master plan, their first new plan since 1996.
The last time county commissioners and the trail department met, there wasn’t a master draft to look over yet. They had policies and some action items to present. Since then, they have had some public input events and their consultant, Logan Simpson Design, has put the draft together.
Logan Simpson is a landscape architecture and environmental planning firm based in Fort Collins and is the contractor that the trails department hired to help with the master plan.
The trail department presented to the board an executive summary of the plan, which was intended to be a “visually pleasing, shorter version of the master plan,” King said.
In comparison to the master plan from 1996, this new plan is “shifting from primarily an acquisition-based program to now, doing a lot more with managing the assets we have,” King said.
The main ideas in the executive summary, which are part of the original ideas the trail department had for the master plan, are to conserve, connect and collaborate. The plan is then streamlined into five different topic areas under those three themes.
King mentioned one of the most frequent messages they heard from public input was the want for balance between conservation and recreation. These topics, then, focus on protecting wildlife and restoring impacted landscapes, amongst many other efforts to conserve.
This area, King said, deals with access, what kinds of recreation are allowed and where, and expanding recreational opportunities in both dispersed and established areas.
These topics ensure that the trail department has the resources necessary to execute the master plan in its entirety. It also includes sections about education and communication for the public so everyone has equal access and knowledge of trail department resources.
The last part of the executive summary included an implementation section, where the trails department provided an outline of how they will carry out the master plan over the next few years.
“We may not revisit this master plan, hopefully for another 25 years, maybe 10 or more” King said. However, she added that the implementation section will be dynamic so the trails department can revisit it over time.
County Commissioner Tamara Pogue expressed concern about the priority of equitable access in the executive summary and in the master plan draft. “We made a great effort to do outreach to some of the communities that don’t have equitable access in our community,” Pogue said. She said she only saw one mention in the executive summary, and she “didn’t find much more than that” in the master plan draft.
Peter Grossehuesch and Laura Rossetter, from the Open Space and Trails Committee, said once the draft plan came out, more people expressed the want for a more diverse point of view. This included that Native American voices to be brought into the conversation.
King said they have already redlined some areas as they have gone back to edit the plan. They will address equity, King said, by including bilingual signage, hiring a consultant that will give perspective on how to create a more inclusive environment and trying to provide more access to open space in all neighborhoods throughout the county.
The public input the trails department received from their open house also contributed some edits to the master plan. Some input from the open house included: conflict management for sharing of trails between dogs, bikes, e-bikes, hikers, and motorized vehicles; capacity concerns; dark skies (nighttime light pollution); and increased access to water recreation.
At the open house, there were also areas that the public could place a sticker next to action items they thought were most important. The ones with the most stickers were trail ambassadors for trail education, unified signage plan, revisit e-bike and fat bike regulations, recpath expansion, and formalize undesignated trails.
King said the master plan will always be online, where the public can find maps, information about trails, vegetation, and statistics about open space in the county. As of now, the Open Space and Trails master plan public draft can be found by visiting the Open Space and Trails webpage on the Summit County Government website, clicking on “project website here” and then navigating to the link, “OST master plan public draft.”
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