The road to … nowhere?
SUMMIT COUNTY – Hundreds of miles of paths criss-cross the White River National Forest, but many of them aren’t on the map.
The White River Revised Forest Plan is in place, and it tells people which areas of the forest they can or can’t enter with a bike, motor vehicle, skis or any other type of new-fangled “transportation.” But cyclists, skiers and jeeps can’t just run amok wherever they see a path, because certain areas of the forest are designated for certain types of transportation.
“Just because there’s a track on the ground, doesn’t mean it’s a system route,” said Jamie Connell, district ranger for the Dillon Ranger District, at a public meeting Tuesday night for the Travel Management Plan. The Travel Management Plan is a separate addition to the Revised Forest Plan that aims to define appropriate uses for specific roads and trails in certain forest areas. It also seeks to secure public access areas for all forest users, establish new road and trail systems and eliminate unused or environmentally harmful roads and trails.
White River representatives anticipated a larger turnout at Tuesday’s meeting, but only about 30 people showed up to learn more about the plan or to submit comments regarding unmarked trails and roads.
U.S. Forest Service officials are soliciting public input regarding which roads and trails are important, because if unmarked roads and trails are not documented and approved for inclusion in the system for the Travel Management Plan, they will be closed or eliminated.
“One problem with Summit County, our trails seem to grow at the ends,” said Forest Service wilderness specialist Beth Boyst at Tuesday’s meeting. “What we need to know is if people are using those (extensions). All over the forest, we have routes that just appeared. Use occurs regularly on a certain area, but the forest has never developed it.”
The Forest Service is working with local groups such as the Summit Fat Tire Society, the town of Breckenridge Trails and Recreation Department and Summit County Open Space to learn where popular recreation roads and trails are that haven’t been classified.
Although certain unclassified trails and roads could be closed to motorized and mechanized use, hikers and horses can tread almost anywhere in the White River National Forest.
“It’s important to get these (routes) designated (for motorized and/or mechanized use), or to return the ground to how it should be,” said Angela Glenn of the Dillon Ranger District.
Forest system routes include McCullough Gulch, the Colorado Trail, the Peaks Trail and almost any trail marked by regular maintenance and signs.
As any local outdoor enthusiast knows, however, the forest is rife with unmarked roads and trails, and Forest Service officials want to know about these.
While some trails will be placed on the forest map and officially designated for motorized and mechanized use, others might be closed, either because they are causing erosion, wildlife disturbance or are unused and obsolete, which is the case with several routes leading to old mines or timber sale areas.
“Through time, from the mining era to current recreational use, there’s a change in needs for forest transportation,” Connell said. “We need to update the map. The changes in use have happened more quickly than we have been able to document, and there will be additional changes down the line. We need people to help keep us up to speed.”
Shauna Farnell can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236, or at email@example.com.
The Dillon Ranger District will open its office to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 1, 8 and 15 to receive comments, suggestions and submissions for the Travel Management Plan.
Anyone interested in communicating ideas for the use of certain unmarked trails and dirt roads in Summit County should stop by the Dillon office or call (970) 468-5400. Written comments should be mailed to Dottie Bell, White River National Forest, P.O. Box 948, Glenwood Springs, CO 81602. The submission deadline is Oct. 31.
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