Colorado State Park officials are hoping that last year's temporary trail between Steamboat Lake State Park and the Routt National Forest will be open again to snowmobilers and other users for the winter.
Ideally, state officials hope to purchase land through which the trail runs in the next year, but now are focusing on keeping the trail open for another winter.
The trail was open for three weeks in March, said Ken Brink, Steamboat Lake State Park manager.
"That's the key to us, is we would like to run it for one season just to see how it works," Brink said.
Before the trail can be used permanently or for another winter, the state park needs an approval from the U.S. Forest Service.
The park is bringing a proposal to get permanent approval for the trail through the county planning process, with a first meeting scheduled for Nov. 4.
Meanwhile, the state park continues to pursue purchasing the land over which the trail runs. Even if the trail is not allowed, the land is valuable as a beautiful piece of open space that prevents the park from becoming landlocked by private property, Brink said. The 168-acre parcel would join the state park's eastern boundary with the Routt National Forest.
A linking trail between the state park and national forest would help mitigate parking and trespassing problems associated with snowmobiling in North Routt and keep pressure off popular parking and riding areas, officials have said. Such mitigation efforts gain importance as the popularity of winter recreation in North Routt grows.
The linking trail would be about 1.5 miles, starting at the Steamboat Lake Marina parking lot and traveling around the lake on a groomed trail. It crosses Routt County Road 129 near the state park visitor's center, goes across Bureau of Land Management land, heads north across the 168-acre parcel the state park wants to buy, and turns right into the national forest on Forest Service Road 410.
The U.S. Forest Service has not approved the linking trail on its land because of wildlife concerns. Chiefly, officials worry that more compacted snow would harm lynx by making them less competitive for food sources.
Along with finding a trail to link the state park and national forest, Brink said the state park hopes to work with the county and Forest Service to look at winter recreation in the area.
"Our intention and our hope is that we'll be able to partner with the county and the U.S. Forest Service to come up with a full-scale process to evaluate winter recreation and travel management issues in North Routt," Brink said.
-- To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org