Sunday, November 18, 2012

U.S. Forest Service wants comments on Tenderfoot Mountain Trail

After making significant improvements to the Tenderfoot Mountain motorcycle trail system proposal, the U.S. Forest Service is seeking public comment on the project that would allow 21 miles of recreation terrain.

Ken Waugh, recreation staff officer for the Dillon Ranger District, said the trail will succeed in managing areas that are ridden unmonitored.

“User-made trails currently throughout Tenderfoot Mountain are steep and not sustainable,” Waugh said. “We want to change the persona of the trail from a unruly area to one that offers motorcyclists a nice ride through the woods.”

The route would be open to four-wheeled and two-wheeled vehicles September through November, and open to motorcycles and all non-motorized uses June 20 through August.

About seven miles of trail near Tenderfoot Mountain were dropped from the proposal to decrease impacts to Canada lynx habitat.

To avoid impacts to the Keystone Stables horseback riding operation, approximately one mile of trail in the Frey Gulch Creek area would be constructed and maintained for hiking and horseback riding only.

The total size of the project area is now 1,800 acres; previously, 4,000 proposed acres included the Oro Grande Trail and other trails and areas that are no longer considered in the proposal. The total acreage the trail tread would occupy is less than 8 acres.

To maintain four-wheeled motorized access to Tenderfoot Mountain for big-game hunters, a route would be designated as open to full-sized motorized access for the first mile, then ATV use for 1.4 miles.

Trail system details

The proposed project, located in the Dillon Ranger District at the juncture of the Straight Creek and Frey Gulch trailheads, would create an approximately 21-mile singletrack system including 13 miles of new trail construction and approximately 8 miles of reconstruction and rehabilitation of existing trails.

The trail system would offer a winding trail less than 5 percent in steep grade with challenging, narrow, rocky and winding areas, Waugh said.

When the assessment is released, a 30-day comment period will allow members of the public to weigh in on the findings. Following the comment period, the Forest Service will assess all questions and concerns before deciding official, Scott Fitzwilliams with the Forest Service, opts for the approval or denial of the 21-mile trail system.

Other user-created, non-system trails in the area would be closed and rehabilitated, Waugh said. The trail system, if approved by Fitzwilliams, would be managed for all non-motorized uses as well as for singletrack motorized uses.

The goal is to change an unmanaged, expanding system of mostly steep, eroded user-created trails to a managed, finite system of sustainable, well-designed trails.

The trail system allows for more representation of motorcycle recreation in the multi-use national forest, officials say. Currently, recreators are limited to riding forest roads, creating trails that often don't comply with Forest Service management goals.

“The purpose of this comment period is to provide an opportunity for the public to provide early and meaningful participation on a proposed action prior to a decision being made by the responsible official,” said Jan Cutts, district ranger. “It is very important to note that this proposal does not include the Tenderfoot or Oro Grande trails, which are only open to non-motorized uses.”

An open house will be hosted at the Dillon Ranger Station from 2-6 p.m. Dec. 5. District staff will answer questions about the proposal.

Enforcing appropriate trail use

The trail would be patrolled by Summit County Off-Road Riders as part of the Trail Ambassador program with the Friends of the Dillon Ranger District.

Volunteers would patrol the trails by motorcycle and speak to other recreators about forest stewardship with an emphasis of staying on the trail.

The trail system would also be patrolled by forest protection officers, with one patrol during the week and one during weekends.

At the start of the system, at the juncture of the Straight Creek and Frey Gulch trailheads, a Stay the Trail education trailer would be present two times per year, according to the education and law-enforcement plan for the project.

Stay The Trail Colorado began in 2003 when a small group of off-highway vehicle enthusiasts promoted a new approach to land-management issues.

The approach focuses on the education of responsible trail use to develop stewardship of public lands. Since its first brochure was published in 2005, the program has grown into a resource that both the public and the land-management agencies can count on to educate the public and protect natural resources in Colorado.