Nancy S. Working: Trails on trial
February 7, 2018
This summer, I hiked the 11-mile round trip Spring Creek Trail, a favorite. I walk quietly, taking the time to breath and appreciate time in the forest. This is where I find hope, comfort and solace. This experience of Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, is known in the world's scientific organizations for its positive, therapeutic effects.
I noticed five other walkers and encountered 18 mountain bikers. Only one cyclist stopped to share the trail. Most tried to pass, or shouted "bike back", as I quickly scurried off the trail. When I reached a bench near the Buffalo Pass road, I enjoyed the break from the mayhem before turning back, but only after picking up the scattered trash that surrounded me.
Days later, I discussed my experience with several local friends, and they described similar experiences and agreed that Spring Creek was no longer a favorite.
Emerald Mountain and Buffalo Pass have been converted to a massive web of trails, which were created in the name of attracting more tourists and providing more exciting experiences for mountain bikers. Hopefully, with taxpayer's money at stake, City Council will take a close second look.
Maybe it is time to preserve and protect the resources we have. Especially in this time of decreased money for public lands, we should be doubly vigilant. Tourists would also appreciate fewer challenging trails and might better appreciate wide paved trails closer to town and safer cycling routes on the roads to Clark, Hayden, and Oak Creek.
There are, according to a local Forest Service representative, 120 miles of multi-use trails for bikes, horseback riding and hiking and 107 miles of trails that include motorcycles and ATVs. There is one mile of a hiking-only trail close to town.
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In the 2014 statewide comprehensive Colorado Outdoor Recreation Plan, walking was the number one outdoor activity with 63 percent participation and over 103.861,714 activity days. Mountain biking had 22.1 percent participation with 15,397,750 days, a large preference for hiking only.
Now, we are in a position to change our situation. The Forest Service has requested public comment for the The Mad Rabbit Trails Project, which includes the Mad Creek, Rocky Peak and Rabbit Ears Pass areas. Currently, there are two proposals for an additional 68 or 79 trail miles, of which only up to five miles are for hikers only. Included are miles of biking and motorized trails in roadless areas, some perilously close to designated Wilderness. In all there is only five hiking-only trails.
Could there be a third option? Why not restore current, damaged trails, and convert some trails to quiet use trails for hiking only. Let's stop, get a full financial and constituency analysis of where we are and what we really want.
Going forward, what future do we want for our environment? Do we want to sacrifice accessible forests to more trails that demand additional money and volunteers to maintain? Do we want to turn our forest lands into adrenaline sport amusement parks?
Or, do we want to have sustainable, quiet areas that we treasure for ourselves, our visitors, the future and just because we love our wild lands.
If you agree, please comment by Feb. 12 using one of the following methods:
Mail: Hahn's Peak Bear Ears Ranger District; Attn: Mad Rabbit Trails Project; 925 Weiss Drive, Steamboat Springs, CO 80487; or email at email@example.com and enter Mad Rabbit Trails Project in subject line.
Nancy S. Working