Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club learned the hard way that they were not allowed to mountain bike on U.S. Forest Service trails this summer.
A ticket was issued recently when a coach and two athletes pulled up to the Lower Bear Trail and were getting ready to go ride.
“They didn’t have a permit in place, and they were operating without a permit,” said Kent Foster, the recreation program manager for the Hahn’s Peak-Bears Ears Ranger District.
The U.S. Forest Service considers the coached training rides offered by the Winter Sports Club to local youths as guiding and outfitting operations. Such operations, whether they are done by commercial for-profit businesses or a nonprofit like the Winter Sports Club, need a permit, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Guides, or in the case of the Winter Sports Club, coaches, need to have a copy of the permit with them during trips.
“Our concern is having too many people on certain trails,” Foster said. “We wouldn’t want to send people up to Fish Creek Falls on a busy Saturday afternoon.”
Winter Sports Club Executive Director Jim Boyne said he thinks it was unfair that the ticket was issued.
“My understanding was there was a misunderstanding over our permit application,” Boyne said.
Foster said that in recent years, the Winter Sports Club has been using the Forest Service trails for biking and hiking with a temporary permit.
Foster said the Winter Sports Club was late submitting items for their biking permit and it was not approved.
“We need to have the permit in place and approved,” Foster said. “For whatever reason, things were not done.”
Foster said he thought the hiking permit still was being approved.
Boyne said they went to the Forest Service and applied for the same permit they had received in the past. He said Forest Service officials told him the denial had nothing to do with how they applied for the permit.
“We were told that it didn’t matter,” Boyne said.
Not issuing the permit was in line with the Forest Service’s current stance on permits for local trails.
“We really haven’t allowed any new special-use permits on the forest until we get an analysis done of what the needs are,” Foster said.
The needs and capacity analysis study of local trails has been an ongoing project and it does not just affect the Winter Sports Club. Cycling businesses, for instance, have not been able to obtain permits that would allow them to shuttle people up to Rabbit Ears Pass for cycling on the Continental Divide Trail.
“If we opened up all those opportunities, there wouldn’t be any room for the general public to go up there,” Foster said. “For businesses, it’s really frustrating.”
Foster said staffing levels have limited the amount of work they have been able to do on the study, and he did not know when it would be completed. At the same time, the Forest Service is working on a master plan for local trails.
“It all dovetails into this bigger picture,” Foster said.
A public meeting related to that master plan is from 5 to 8 p.m. Aug. 6 at the Forest Service office, 925 Weiss Drive.
Foster said he is was hopeful a solution with the Winter Sports Club could be worked out in time for its fall cycling programs.
“It’s a short-term blip, but we also need people we are partnering with to follow our rules,” Foster said.
Foster said the Winter Sports Club’s mission of developing youths is in line with the Forest Service’s mission of getting kids into the woods and developing them into good stewards of the land.
Boyne thought the permit denial was not consistent with the Forest Service’s mission, but the club was going to make the most of it. They still are allowed on Forest Service trails at Steamboat Ski Area.
Boyne hoped the Forest Service does their work expeditiously.
“It’s not advantageous to the youth of the community at this point,” Boyne said. “We are the ideal organization to be given access to our forest.”
To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland