Town, county scrambling to map trails
BRECKENRIDGE – Scores of trails in Summit County could be closed to bikers, hikers and equestrians under the U.S. Forest Service’s Travel Management Plan unless town and county open space officials can identify and map each of them.The challenge will be to do so in two weeks, it was announced at a Breckenridge Open Space Advisory Commission (BOSAC) meeting Monday night.Any trails that aren’t identified in the scoping process – which ends Oct. 30 – will not be included in the Forest Service system and will be “obliterated” in the forest, said Heide Andersen, an open space and trails planner for the town of Breckenridge.Open space officials learned a week and a half ago the only way trails can be placed in the system is through the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, which involves extensive study of the impacts a trail will have on the land.The NEPA process, said BOSAC commissioner Turk Montepare, is “hemorrhoidal.”—Travel ManagementThe Forest Service is taking comments from the public about trails in the area and how people believe those trails should be used as part of the Travel Management Plan of the White River National Forest Plan. The Forest Service revises forest plans every 10 or 15 years and outlines, in general, permissible uses in the forest. Recreation, particularly trails, is examined in more detail under a Travel Management Plan.Andersen said she has an idea where the Forest Service is headed with trails management and that it looks “pretty scary.” Some of the proposed guidelines indicate that all trails will be assumed closed unless they are posted as open and that any trails not listed in the system will be removed on the ground. That could involve plowing a trail under and revegetating it to give the appearance it never existed.One goal in the plan is to identify popular trails and eliminate the numerous social and redundant trails that weave their way through the backcountry like cobwebs. That’s not a problem with trails advocates, who agree many trails need to be closed to protect the environment.Although trails throughout the county could be in jeopardy, Breckenridge officials are worried primarily about those in the Golden Horseshoe area, loosely defined as the horseshoe-shaped piece of land that begins in the Swan River drainage northeast of town and loops around to French Gulch. Much of that land is owned by B&B Mines but is under contract to be sold to Summit County and the town of Breckenridge.If trails in that area aren’t included in the Travel Management Plan because they are on private property, the town and county would have to submit each trail through the NEPA process to re-open them to the public, Andersen said.That requirement came as a surprise to town and open space officials.”We were never told about this,” Andersen said. “We asked if we could come into NEPA with a plan for the Golden Horseshoe, and their answer was no. Every single trail gets its own NEPA.”The only way to avoid that would be to obtain a Categorical Exclusion for the area, which would eliminate it from Travel Management Plan rules until the open space departments can determine how trails there will be managed.”Their timing is awkward,” she said. “We’re doing the master plan for the Golden Horseshoe trails, and there are trails that are not on the map, and yet the Forest Service is a partner in this.”Then there’s the timing of the B&B land,” she added. “They won’t put those trails in the system unless they’re in the public domain.”Another concern is trails that run across, for example, county-owned lands into Forest Service lands and back into county lands. If the Forest Service portion of those trails is closed, it could eliminate access to the two county-owned parcels.Open space trails planners and members of the county and Breckenridge Open Space Advisory committees plan to scour the valley in the next two weeks using a variety of maps to make sure no trails are missed.Town open space planner Danica Rice urged people to write comments about the trails on an oversized map posted at the Forest Service offices at 680 Blue River Parkway in Silverthorne.”Take a team of people with you,” she said. “Just go nuts.”—Golden HorseshoeAndersen, Montepare and others said they are concerned not only for trails that haven’t been mapped, but for those that haven’t been found yet. For example, Montepare said, last year he found a meandering ditch near Discovery Hill, south of the new nine holes at the Breckenridge Golf Course and east of Gold Run Road. He has since followed the trail from there up the south side of the Swan River and believes it ends in the South Fork of the Swan River.”The area is chock full of mining flumes,” said commissioner J.B. Katz. “And more trails are continuing to be discovered as we expand our open space program. We need to encourage them to take that into account. That’s the unique nature of our county.”
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