The U.S. Forest Service has released its final environmental assessment and a draft decision for the Sulphur Ranger District Trails Smart Sizing Project. The draft decision would approve up to 18 miles of new trail construction in the Winter Park and Fraser area, in addition to improved signage and enhanced trailheads.
The project includes rerouting and rebuilding trails, and decommissioning approximately 2.6 miles of system trail as well as any social trails discovered during the project. The plan converts a one-mile section of road to single track trail and narrows some 5 miles of non-motorized trail to single track. The draft decision also opens up some 2.5 miles of additional single track trail to motorbike use to expand the District’s single track motorized system to 13 miles, in addition to 66 miles of motorized trail wide enough to accommodate ATV use. Along with the trail improvements, bicycle use would only be allowed on designated system trails across the Sulphur Ranger District and the plan would restrict winter biking on about 9.5 miles of trail.
The project stems from years of collaboration and discussion with a variety of user groups, including Headwaters Trails Alliance (HTA), a group that represents local trail users and communities. In 2012, HTA began design on a plan that would improve the quality of the trails experience for the modern trail user as the current trail system wasn’t meeting the desires of the community.
This project is the culmination of the first phase of HTA’s master trails planning effort. The Forest Service has taken concepts and ideas for a portion of the area identified in the HTA Master Trails Plan and refined these to address concerns for wildlife, watersheds and other National Forest values.
“The goal of this project was to improve the trail system, not only for the public that uses the trail system but also for the wildlife that uses the Forest,” said Sulphur District Ranger Jon Morrissey. “The draft decision improves and modernizes the trail system on National Forest near the towns of Winter Park and Fraser while minimizing impacts to streams and wildlife by choosing more appropriate trail locations.”
The draft decision not only improves trail-to-trail connectivity, creates loop opportunities, and minimizes the amount of roads that trail users need to access other trails but also designs trails to create a range of difficulty levels from easy to difficult.
The project would be completed in phases over the next 5 to 10 years by working with partners on both implementation and project funding.
The draft decision provides an opportunity to review the information before the decision in finalized. Those who previously provided written comments on the project have until midnight April 3, 2017, to submit written objections.
The complete draft decision, maps, final environmental analysis and information about the objection process are available online at www.fs.usda.gov/goto/arp/SulphurTrails