Buffalo Pass project receives $100,000 | SteamboatToday.com

Buffalo Pass project receives $100,000

Money will help pay for fresh gravel on lower section of road

Matt Heydon

Matt Heydon, left, and Jale Smith fight their way up the Buffalo Pass road in August 2009 during the Buff Pass Hill Climb Town Challenge Mountain Bike Race Series event near Steamboat Springs. The Hahn's Peak Ranger District received $100,000 from the Secure Rural School and Community Self-Determination Act to make improvements to the road.

— The Hahn's Peak Ranger District of the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest received a $100,000 jump-start this week on its plans to make improvements to Buffalo Pass Road/Forest Road 60.

The federal funds will pay for fresh gravel on 2.5 miles along the lower section of the road, which already was worked on in 2007-08. Hahn's Peak District Ranger Jamie Kingsbury said the $100,000 is part of a larger project to stabilize the road, which is subject to erosion because it does not drain properly. The money comes from the federal Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act, which, among other things, provides for funding infrastructure maintenance projects in local jurisdictions that contain tracts of federal land.

"We still have a bigger project in the works, but this grant will give us leverage to compete better for the Legacy Road Grant," Kingsbury said.

She is referring to an internal U.S. Forest Service grant her office is seeking to treat seven miles on upper Buffalo Pass Road and another 4.5 miles of Forest Road 310 leading south from the summit of the pass to Fish Creek Reservoir. Those stretches of dirt and gravel have fallen into disrepair because of drainage issues.

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

Buffalo Pass begins a few miles outside Steamboat Springs city limits and continues to the Continental Divide above 10,000 feet.

If the Hahn's Peak Ranger District lands the Legacy Road Grant, it would cover adding 12 inches of road base topped by 6 inches of gravel on the upper road.

In the meantime, Kingsbury said, her office has squeezed the purchase of 60 drainage culverts out of the $100,000 grant announced this week, and the work of installing them could begin as early in spring as snowmelt allows.

"We'd like to get that done before we open the upper gate (to vehicles) next spring, but there's a chance the road would be closed to the public for a time next year," she said.

The actual timing of the work would be determined by the Medicine Bow-Routt's contract office, which is preoccupied with removal of beetle-killed timber, she added.

In the case of a road closure, Steamboat Springs residents still would be able to reach the summit of Buffalo Pass and the Wyoming Trail leading north into Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area from the east side of the Continental Divide in North Park.

The $100,000 was recommended by the Resource Advisory Committee, whose members include retired Forest Service employee Jim Ficke, County Commissioner Doug Monger, Yampatika's Sonja Macys and wilderness advocate Win Dermody, Forest Service spokeswoman Diann Ritschard said.

Grants also were awarded in several surrounding counties, including two in southern Wyoming.

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