Thursday, July 31, 2014

U.S. Forest Service to Hold Public Planning Session on Steamboat Area Trails

On Wednesday, Aug. 6, the Hahns Peak/Bears Ears Ranger District (HPBE) is inviting the public to join them for a planning session regarding the multi-use trail system on the Routt National Forest surrounding Steamboat Springs.

HPBE maintains approximately 375 miles of multi-use trails including motorized, non-motorized and wilderness trails, such as the Gilpin Lake Loop, one of my favorite hikes. Various special interest groups have presented the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) with proposals to develop more trails for their use. The most recent request for changes to the area trail system came as a result of Steamboat’s Accommodation Tax Referendum 2A from last November.

So, instead of dealing with each request separately, HPBE would like to look at the larger perspective to determine what approach best fits the Forest Service’s desired forest condition and the public’s needs.

The public planning session, or charrette, will be held at the HPBE District Office at 925 Weiss Drive, beginning at 5 p.m. It is expected to take several hours, as USFS staff will first provide information to paint a detailed picture of the existing situation and then be available to go over area-specific, future options with those in attendance.

“We intend for this charrette to be the start of a very open, public process regarding the future of multi-use trails in the Steamboat area,” said HPBE District Ranger Chad Stewart. “It will bring all stakeholders together at one time to have dialogue on the existing trail network, identify what is missing, and ultimately develop a desired, quality trail system serving the communities. “It’s hoped the charrette will provide a forum for ideas and offer the ability for immediate feedback to our staff on proposals.”

Communities in this case is defined as locations such as Steamboat Springs, North Routt, Hayden and Craig, as well as user groups such as off-highway vehicles, mountain bikes, horseback riding, hiking, etc.

With multiple locations/users affected, it is important to understand that while some groups may want trail opportunities for their specific use, USFS trails are multiple-use trails that are designated as motorized, non-motorized, or for non-mechanized use, as in the case of wilderness trails. Trails can be designed for various uses, but other uses are not precluded. Increasing trail miles is a long-term financial investment for the USFS to consider, so consensus of the group may require concessions by some. Resource issues will also be an integral factor in the future planning of trails.

HPBE is hopeful that the outcome will be a collective vision for the future of trails on the District and the communities served. Once all information is collected and discussed, the USFS will incorporate feedback into a trails master plan, and as funding and priorities allow, complete the necessary environmental analysis.

For more USFS information about this or other recreation topics, call the Hahns Peak-Bears Ears Ranger District at (970) 870-2299, or stop by the District Office in Steamboat Springs between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.


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