Summit County Open Space and Trails Department collects public input for first master plan since 1996

A congested North Tenmile Creek Trailhead is pictured on the morning of Saturday, June 18, 2022. Katherine King, director of Summit County's Open Space and Trails Department, said trailhead parking is an essential part of managing people's impact on the landscape.
Eiliana Wright/Summit Daily News

Dillon resident Dave Bittner said the first time he visited Summit County, he decided on the spot he wanted to live there and didn’t look back. He has now been a resident of Summit County for the past 43 years, and he serves on the Summit County Open Space Advisory Council. 

At the Open Space and Trails open house held on Thursday, June 16 at the Summit County Community & Senior Center, the open space department’s administrative members gathered to hear what the public wanted to see in the new master plan draft. There has not been an updated master plan since 1996. 

Kristina Kachur, a consultant from Logan Simpson Design, served on the county’s open space department master plan team.

“The plan really emphasizes cooperation and provides a direction for the entire county regardless of jurisdiction,” she said. Kachur also said the goal was to provide a vision for the entire county.

Logan Simpson is a landscape architecture and environmental planning firm based in Fort Collins and is the contractor that the open space department hired to help with the master plan.

Katherine King, the county’s Open Space and Trails director, added that they will manually incorporate comments they heard at the open house from the public into the master plan.  

Some of the posters that bordered the room had space for attendees to place stickers next to the initiatives they thought should be a priority.

Bittner placed a sticker next to a slot that said “create unified signage plan to update all trailhead and trail portal signs with current maps and regulations; reduce sign clutter; improve wayfinding; and provide bilingual information countywide.” 

“We need better signage,” Bittner said. As someone who has been living in the county for so long, Bittner said he’s seen the county grow exponentially, and therefore sees a need for updated signage to inform the new residents.

Updated signage would also be helpful for the plethora of out-of-towners that visit Summit County every year to hike, bike, climb, ski, and more.

Bittner’s opinion reflected a sentiment that was widely shared at the open house: the want for balance between conservation and recreation as Summit County expands. 

King reported that the county’s open space department has received comments from the public that there’s been more illegal camping, resource damage and crowded trailheads. However, along with the negative comes the positive — King said they’ve also received many comments about how important conservation should be in this new master plan.

“I think in Summit County, we tend to think everybody moves here because they want to ride their bikes and they want to ski, and they want to hike, and that’s definitely true — people do want to do that stuff — but we’ve also seen plenty of comments to the effect of they’re really concerned about wildlife and wildlife habitat,” King said. 

King expressed that with outdoor recreation, there are unavoidable consequences, and it’s up to the county’s open space and trails to mitigate those effects.

“So much about public land management and natural resource land management is about managing people, and their impact on the landscape,” King said. Part of that, she said, is to create proper signage, provide bathrooms and ensure there is proper trailhead parking. 

All of these priorities and more are reflected in the master plan draft.

King mentioned that if people were not able to attend the meeting, the master plan draft online has an interactive feature for the public to submit comments until June 26.

To provide input, and to learn about the master plan, visit the Open Space and Trails page on the Summit County Government’s website at SummitCountyCo.Gov/105/Open-Space-Trails. Click on the link under the subheading “Summit County Open Space and Master Plan,” then scroll down to “click here to provide comments online.”

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