Cyclists, hikers, offroad enthusiasts and a crowd of other trail users draw their ideas for new trails on large maps at a planning meeting in Steamboat Springs. The U.S. Forest Service will use all the feedback to help develop a new master plan for local trails in the Hahn's Peak-Bears Ears Ranger District.

Photo by Scott Franz

Cyclists, hikers, offroad enthusiasts and a crowd of other trail users draw their ideas for new trails on large maps at a planning meeting in Steamboat Springs. The U.S. Forest Service will use all the feedback to help develop a new master plan for local trails in the Hahn's Peak-Bears Ears Ranger District.

U.S. Forest Service flooded with new trail proposals at Steamboat Springs forum

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Matt Weiss, carrying Hunter, and Carla Serantoni follow dog Paddy while hiking down the Mad Creek Trail on Wednesday afternoon.

Blazing trails

Steamboat Springs is on the verge of a trail rush. Armed with millions of dollars in lodging tax dollars for the next decade, a seven-member volunteer committee hasn’t wasted any time coming up with recommendations for how to spend the money. Read on to learn more about how the city is starting to spend its lodging tax dollars on local trails, and what could happen next.

— For three hours on Wednesday evening, half-a-million acres of National Forest in Northwest Colorado were up for grabs.

By the end of the night, the dreams for this land totaled many miles.

Dozens of people squeezed into a packed conference room in Steamboat Springs to share and draw up their visions for all of the surrounding land where they love to play.

They were handed colored markers and encouraged to chart all of their ideas for new trails, connections and improvements on a series of giant maps.

"This is your time to color," said Kent Foster, recreation program manager for the Hahn's Peak-Bears Ears Ranger District.

Sure, the land grab was temporary, but people sure had fun plotting out their visions for all of it.

There also was more harmony in the crowd than competition.

Early in the planning meeting held by the U.S. Forest Service, Mary Sue Sorenson hurried to a map of the trails in North Routt County.

The Yampa Valley OHV (Off Highway Vehicle) Trail Riders representative took a red marker and drew a line across an existing trail she hopes some day will accommodate off-roading vehicles with four wheels, not just two.

"I'm looking for ways to make loops," she said.

The route she highlighted currently has a dead end for ATV riders, but she said a reclassification or widening of a nearby trail used by motorcycles would allow ATVs to travel from Routt County Road 129 through the National Forest to Moffat County and loop back around.

Standing next to Sorenson was Jay Clapper, who loves to drive his 4x4 Jeep in the National Forest.

Jeep-friendly trails have been disappearing here, he said, and he was looking to preserve the ones that remain.

At a table nearby, local trail builder and designer Aryeh Copa had dreams of his own.

He took a purple marker and drew lines up a ridge on Little Agnes up in North Routt.

This trail, he said, will offer breathtaking views of the Mica Basin.

Of all the many trails he was drawing, this was the new path he said he was most excited about.

At another map, Steamboat Springs Running Series Director Cara Marrs was enjoying her talks with a variety of other trail users.

At another map was Rodger Steen.

Steen said he has spent 40 years hiking the area and he feels he can get everywhere he needs to go.

"But others want more, and we need to listen," he said. "I want to see this land used wisely."

On a sheet of paper, he wrote about how any future trails need to have maintenance agreements in place.

A man nearby said he was "psyched" to be in the room as he started drawing another trail.

Many in the crowd reported they were happy to learn about the needs and desires of all the different trail users.

Many said they had more shared interests and goals than competing visions.

At the conclusion of the evening, the dreaming ended, and the U.S. Forest Service was left to start making some tough decisions.

"We can't do it all," Foster said. "The next step is to figure out what we do."

With funding challenges and a tough time maintaining what it already has, the Forest Service is hoping to find some commonalities among trail users.

Hahn's Peak-Bears Ears District Ranger Chad Stewart said he expects to find multiple colors representing multiple trail users overlapping on the maps.

Stewart and the Forest Service hope to take the many pages of maps and feedback from trail users and use it over the next six months to help develop a master plan for existing and future trails here.

In January, Stewart said some trail proposals could be ready for consideration. He suggested some of the early proposals could include the "low-hanging fruit" type of projects like improving existing unauthorized trails in places like Buffalo Pass.

More epic trails, if they are feasible, would be possibilities in later years.

As the crowd around him continued to plot out their trail ideas, Stewart said he wanted to see all the excitement and enthusiasm continue.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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