Summit County Open Space and Trails had a productive 2017, with a list of achievements including protection for 100 acres of open space, restoration of mining-affected areas, recreational path improvements and a new trail map app that gives detailed information about the county's recreational path network.
The department's major accomplishment this year involved the acquisition and protection of 15 key land parcels around the county totaling $595,000. Eight of these transactions were made in partnership with the town of Breckenridge. Some important transactions included abandoned mining claims in the undeveloped corridor along Montezuma road, helping maintain trail access and protecting wetlands in the area. Additional purchases of mining claims around the Saints John townsite helped maintain contiguity of county open space and preserved the Glacier Mountain ridgeline.
Aside from open space acquisitions, purchases of several easements were also instrumental in improving Summit's trail network. Recreational path improvements include trail expansion and maintenance, building shoulders along certain high-traffic paths and roads, and shoring up trailheads and trail portals.
Open Space and Trails director Brian Lorch said the recpath improvements are in line with county residents' priorities, such as preservation of the wilderness, accessibility to trails and boosting the local tourism industry.
"Summit County has a world-class amenity in our open space and our recreational paths," he said. "People come from all over the United States to ride on our recpaths, and it's a big economic driver of our summer recreational tourism. The locals also find recpaths to be a key amenity here as there is a limited highway system in the area, especially roads with shoulders that allow better accessibility."
Another highlight for Open Space and Trails in 2017 was the development of an interactive trail map app. The app was developed in-house, primarily by department resource specialist Michael Wurzel, and in partnership with the county Geographical Information Systems department. The app, which is accessible through desktop and mobile web browsers, gives users a bird's-eye view of the county's trail system, providing information about the area's trail features, campgrounds, open space parcels, paved pathways and other information helping both locals and tourists navigate and plan their hikes and recreational activities. So, for example, if someone wants a quiet nature hike with no interruption from motorized vehicles or bike traffic, they can click on trails to find out what kind of traffic is allowed and avoid ones that permit motorized activity. Just like Google Maps, the app uses GPS to find a user's location and allows them to see what trails and campgrounds are nearby and how to get to them.
Open Space and Trails resource specialist Katherine King said the department is proud of the app, as it gives the county a unique and useful information resource that makes the trail network more accessible.
"Someone can come out of town and open the app in their hotel," she said, "and find out where they are and how to get to the nearest rec path for a quick hike, or plan something more elaborate with the map at their fingertips."
The app can be accessed by visiting SummitCountyCo.gov/TrailMap. Another open space highlight was the work done on the Swan River Restoration Project, a long-term initiative meant to repair damage from the region's dredge mining history and restore the Swan's natural riparian ecosystem. The project includes a large amount of gravel removal, with 70,000 tons of material removed from the site thus far. The project is in partnership with the town of Breckenridge and the U.S. Forest Service.
In a press release, Summit County Commissioner Karn Stieglmeier hailed the department's efforts over the past year. "Our Open Space and Trails Program is instrumental in maintaining Summit County's rural mountain character," she said, "protecting its unique natural areas and supporting high-quality outdoor experiences for residents and visitors."
In the same press release, Lorch thanked locals for all their support for the department's initiatives, which included a lot of volunteer work. "We're so grateful for the support the Summit County community continues to show the Open Space and Trails Program," he said. "And we really appreciate the significant commitment from volunteers, who contributed more than 1,090 hours of work on our Recpath and trails. Without this support, many of our program's accomplishments would not be possible."