The state park received formal approval of the temporary trail from the U.S. Forest Service Tuesday afternoon.
The temporary trail, known as the Steamboat Lake Connector trail, was approved by the Routt County Regional Planning Commission in mid-December, pending approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Concerns from the Fish and Wildlife included that more compact snow would harm lynx by making them less competitive for food sources.
According to a decision memo from the U.S. Forest Service, several mitigation steps were made including removing sections of snowmobile trails in the area totaling about 1.5 miles.
The trail marks a start to finding solutions to winter recreation uses in North Routt County that are satisfactory to Hahn's Peak Village residents and winter recreational users.
Winter recreation in the area steadily is increasing, said Steamboat Lake State Park Manager Ken Brink, so it is important to proactively manage it to avoid complaints about trespassing, parking in county roads and other issues.
"We're certainly ready to go make it happen," Brink said. "We're excited about it.
"As hard as it's been, I'm very encouraged by the fact that so many people are working together on this project."
Before the trail is open to the public, crews will have to cut a few dozen saplings and groom and mark the trail, Brink said. The park will give formal notice to the public as soon as the trail opens, and Brink said he's hopeful it will open by this weekend.
The temporary trail also will provide important user information that can be incorporated into the area winter recreation assessment in the works by the state park, Routt County and the Forest Service.
The trail was made possible by landowners Edna Quealy and Alice Shaffer, who offered an agreement for access this winter for snowmobilers through their property between the national forest and Routt County Road 129. The first mile of the trail, which starts at the state park headquarters, travels over their private land, eventually reaching the national forest boundary and Forest Service Road 410.
The state park will patrol and monitor use of the trail and also will mark the trail with signs. The trail will close to snowmobiles March 31.
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