Upper Hummingbird Trail construction delayed in Aspen’s Hunter Creek Valley
Construction of a highly anticipated hiking and mountain biking trail in the Hunter Creek Valley has been put on hold, at least temporarily.
Construction was supposed to get underway in July on the Upper Hummingbird Trail high above the Hunter Creek Valley floor. The 1.7-mile lower Hummingbird Trail was completed two years ago and has received widespread acclaim.
The 0.55-mile upper section was going to start at the upper trailhead of the existing segment and extend up the slope to where a road forks to Four Corners and Van Horn Park. The new trail would allow riders to avoid a steep, relatively dull road.
The U.S. Forest Service agreed this summer to put the trail on hold so the proposal can be reviewed by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), according to Karen Schroyer, Aspen-Sopris District Ranger.
“We’ve been getting concurrence from SHPO on individual projects for the last two to three years and to be completely transparent, we failed to get SHPO concurrence before constructing the lower Hummingbird Trail a couple of years ago,” Schroyer said. “We had multiple projects we were juggling at the time, and the lower Hummingbird project just slipped through the cracks.”
Once the oversight was discovered, the historic preservation office was notified as well as the America Council of Historic Preservation.
“We agreed then we should look at this more holistically,” Schroyer said.
Both Hummingbird trail segments were envisioned in the Hunter-Smuggler Cooperative Plan, a collaborative planning effort between the Forest Service, city of Aspen, Pitkin County, Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, Wilderness Workshop and Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers, among others, to manage the Smuggler Mountain-Hunter Creek Valley area — fondly considered Aspen’s backyard.
Although the collaborative plan was reviewed under federal environmental law, the Forest Service didn’t forward the plan or individual projects to the state historic preservation office. The implementation team for the plan will select projects and submit them for review with the historic office.
“We’re basically pausing and putting in a proposal for several projects,” Schroyer said.
Upper Hummingbird could be back on track for 2018. “I think it’s a good possibility for next summer,” she said.
Mike Pritchard, executive director of the Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association, said many mountain bike riders were looking forward to the addition of the trail this year. Nevertheless, a holistic approach for the historical and cultural review sounds like a good one, he said.
Gary Tennenbaum, executive director of Pitkin County Open Space and Trails, said some important vegetation management projects are on tap for the Smuggler Mountain-Hunter Creek Valley area as well the trail construction.
“They were really ready to go this year,” he said.
He said he looks forward to having the entire plan thoroughly examined by the state historic preservation office so projects can be pursued.
Hunter Creek Valley has remnants of old cabins and outbuildings in the valley floor as well as prehistoric resources that officials are reluctant to talk about.
The State Historic Preservation Office wants to make sure none of the trail or vegetation management projects affects the resources.
“Nothing we’ve done has impacted historic resources,” Tennenbaum said.
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