Gilliland: Summit County historian calls for preservation of Peaks Trail |

Gilliland: Summit County historian calls for preservation of Peaks Trail

The recent flurry of letters to the Summit Daily News on the impending Frisco to Breckenridge timber clear-cuts makes a clear case for the concern of outdoor lovers. That these cuts take place along the so-popular Peaks Trail causes angst for many. The eyebrow-high slash piles slated to burn and acres of stumps remaining to devastate the beauty of this backcountry forest path has already occurred on heavily-scarred, clear-cut Gold Hill. This makes many shake their heads and ask “What’s happening to my beautiful Summit County?”

As the author of “The Summit Hiker” and “The Vail Hiker,” I enjoy a close connection to the alpine splendor of our beautiful pocket of paradise. Like many residents and visitors, I consider our mountain backyard as a treasure to be cherished, honored and cared for with an attitude of stewardship.

It is true that when drought spurred public concern about “The Big Burn,” the idea of cutting every tree possible to avoid conflagration seemed acceptable. But the rains have come and this large forested acreage destined to die through beetle kill has survived.

The 2010-11 rationale, which drove the Ophir Mountain timber cuts, and those continuing toward Breckenridge, is now unfounded. Let’s ask the U.S. Forest Service, our county commissioners and legislators to divert fire mitigation dollars to more effective projects such as planting aspen in beetle kill areas and creating defensible space around true residential areas. (Most of the Peaks Trail lies far from any neighborhoods.) Forest Service officials state that the imminent cuts are “a done deal.” Can they at least direct the contractor to avoid trees lining our beloved Peaks Trail?

In research for my historical books, such as “SUMMIT, A Gold Rush History of Summit County, Colorado, 25th Anniversary Edition,” I enjoyed the privilege of many conversations with old timers. Men like Harold P. (Chick) Deming, born in Frisco in 1918, told me that in the 1920s and ’30s, the logging industry denuded the hills around Frisco. “You couldn’t see a single tree on the bald hills above town,” he said. That’s when, according to Deming, the lodgepole monoculture took hold, crowding out the mixed species that had forested the hills before. Clear-cutting of the proportions planned for the Frisco-Breckenridge projects will produce the same lodgepole monoculture that earlier cuts did.

Contact decision-makers at the following addresses:

United States Forest Service, White River National Forest, Dillon Ranger District – District Ranger, Jan Cutts

Summit County Commissioners:

Thomas Davidson –

Dan Gibbs –

Karn Stiegelmeier –

Representative Jared Polis –

Senator Mark Udall –

Senator Michael Bennet –

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