Buffalo Pass eyed for road improvement

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The Forest Service is soliciting public comment on the tentative plan to improve Buffalo Pass Road.

Comments can be e-mailed to comments-rocky-mo.... When submitting comments, include your full name and address. Use the e-mail subject line “Buffalo Pass Road” to ensure proper routing. Written comments can be sent to:

Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests

Attn: Jamie Kingsbury, District Ranger

925 Weiss Drive

Steamboat Springs, CO 80487

Telephone: 970-870-2149.

Fax: 970-870-2284.

— The Hahn’s Peak Ranger District is making plans to smooth the bumpy ride to the top of Buffalo Pass, but construction on National Forest roads 60 and 310 won’t begin this summer, if at all.

“We’ve applied for a Forest Service grant,” Jamie Kingsbury said Tuesday. “It’s not a sure thing.”

Kingsbury is district ranger for the Hahn’s Peak and Bears Ears Ranger District of the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest.

Buffalo Pass Road, which begins just three miles northeast of Steamboat Springs, represents the most direct access to the Continental Divide Trail and the southern boundary of the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area.

The road to the summit typically isn’t open until late June or early July. A forest spokesman said Tuesday that the second gate on Forest Road 60 (Routt County Road 38) had just opened, allowing motorists to go as far as three miles above Dry Lake Campground.

Kingsbury said after four years of attempting to improve conditions on the rough road, she is convinced that it can’t be properly fixed until chronic drainage problems are addressed.

And erosion resulting from the drainage problems can cause resource damage.

“I think we’ve partially lost our investment in that road,” Kingsbury said. “I don’t consider this as a reconstruction of the road because we aren’t planning to realign it. Really, it’s heavy maintenance.”

The proposal would treat seven miles of Buffalo Pass Road (Forest Road 60) on the upper road to the summit, and another 4.5 miles leading south on Forest Road 310 to Fish Creek Reservoir. The reservoir is the primary source of domestic water for the city Steamboat Springs.

Work would include adding 12 inches of road base topped by 6 inches of gravel.

Culverts would be replaced to improve drainage, and turnouts on the road would be re-built.

The work would necessitate reopening an existing gravel pit near the reservoir as well as opening a new gravel pit on a relatively scrubby piece of ground reached by a spur road off Forest Road 60. The gravel pits have led the Ranger District to initiate an analysis of the project under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Kingsbury envisions that the work would be accomplished using Forest Service personnel and heavy equipment.

One aspect of the project could enhance the fishery in Fish Creek Reservoir.

Forest Service fisheries biologist Rick Henderson has recommended that an arch pipe be installed beneath Forest Road 310 where it crosses Granite Creek, which flows into the reservoir.

The intent is to enhance the ability of fish to access 1.5 miles of spawning habitat. Arch pipes can be designed as bottomless culverts that help fish navigate stream gradients and allow them to swim upstream when flows have dropped.

— To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205 or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

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