Popular Forest Service road gets off-highway vehicle grant funding for repairs
After more than 20 years, a well-traveled U.S. Forest Service road in Wildridge will receive much-needed repairs thanks to an off-highway vehicle trail grant from Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
Last fall, the town of Avon applied for the grant in partnership with local nonprofit Wildridge Trail Coalition to preserve the status of Forest Service Road 779 — also known as Metcalf Road — as a level 2 high-clearance OHV route open to the public.
The grant will provide the partners with $39,745 for significant maintenance projects on the road.
The remainder of the work will be funded by $15,000 in matching support from the town of Avon; $1,500 from community groups such as the Singletree Homeowners Association, Berry Creek Metro District and Rocky Mountain Sports Riders; $2,000 from Wildridge Trail Coalition members; and just over $8,000 of in-kind support from the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District for recreation, engineering and road crew supervisor staff time for the project.
The group has contracted with RPM Construction to complete the work on the road starting in 2023 — with completion expected by September 2023.
According to the grant application, the project will “rectify a common issue of users diverting from the designated road and creating their own routes to avoid large holes or rocks and muddy sections of the route.”
The application also stipulates that construction will include filling low areas, moving rocks too big for off-highway vehicle clearance, building water bars to manage erosion and divert water off the route, laying a new road base, and reseeding the disturbed areas around the route.
All in all, the application holds that “the work will maintain the OHV experience but ensure the route is sustainable into the future.”
According to Devon DeCrausaz, the president of the Wildridge Trail Coalition, this is the first time the grant has been awarded to a municipality, and the first time a Colorado Parks and Wildlife OHV grant has been awarded to provide maintenance to a road under U.S. Forest Service management.
The success of this grant, DeCrausaz said in an interview with the Vail Daily, tracks back to collaboration between the town and the coalition as well as with local Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Forest Service, Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance and county representatives. The collaboration kicked off last spring with a meeting between all the parties to discuss how to better maintain this road.
“We were all in a room and were able to brainstorm what the challenges were and how to resolve the issues,” DeCrausaz said. “To the best of my knowledge, one of those collaborative meetings has never before taken place and it was really impressive to have everyone in the same room, working together, trying to work toward our common goal of sustaining access for the community.”
The road itself has a somewhat tumultuous local history as it was scheduled to be decommissioned by the Forest Service in 2011 as part of its Travel Management Plan. This was “due to its poor condition and a lack of resources to keep up with maintenance,” the grant application holds.
However, the town of Avon appealed this decision — largely in part to the importance of this trail to its northern communities, particularly the Wildridge subdivision — and reached an agreement with the Forest Service to maintain access on the road.
But, since then no maintenance has occurred and the road has continued to deteriorate.
“That road hasn’t been maintained in over 20 years, so there are areas where two lanes have been formed and people have widened it out trying to get around rock obstacles that have been caused by erosion,” DeCrausaz said.
The project scope, as previously described, will seek to solve these challenges and return the road to its original condition as a level 2 road, which is one of five road classifications the Forest Service uses to classify its roads. Maintenance level 2 roads are designated for high-clearance vehicles according to this classification.
Wildridge Trail Coalition
For DeCrausaz, this was a huge victory and a big group effort that supported why the coalition was started in the first place. The coalition was launched in December 2020 as a way to fill a community need and provide motorized trail ambassadors and support Forest Service trails projects and systems in Eagle County.
Plus, in “forming a really, really strong relationship,” with not only the town but also with Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Forest Service, this is likely just the beginning of what these partnerships and collaboration can achieve for local trails and systems.
“We are super appreciative to the town of Avon for helping us and for providing us with the interest and the little push. Without their support, we would not be where they are. Their commitment to the community, it’s been super important,” DeCrausaz said. “The Forest Service and CPW, they’ve never before funded a road maintenance project before and particularly not non-Forest Service maintained property; so it’s huge that they supported us in this endeavor.”
Metcalf Road as well as a number of other local trails are set to open for the season Tuesday, June 21. For the Wildridge Trail Coalition, this also means it’s set to ramp up its motorized trail ambassador program, schedule some work days and more.
To learn more about the coalition, visit WildridgeTrailCoalition.org.
This story is from VailDaily.com.
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