BLM OKs new trail systems
As soon as the 30-day appeal period is over, Rifle and RAMBO hope to begin construction on Grand Hogback Trails near Rifle Arch
Less than two weeks ago, the Bureau of Land Management issued decisions to go ahead on an 18-mile non-motorized mountain biking trail system that the city of Rifle, the Rifle Regional Economic Development Corp. Rifle Area Mountain Bike Organization, Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association have been working on for the past two years.
The decision also includes the addition of 10 miles of trails to the existing trails in the New Castle area.
“Both of these trail projects were proposed to the BLM by local user groups with support from local communities,” BLM Deputy Director for Policy and Programs William Perry Pendley said according to a release. “By working together, we can achieve sustainable trail systems that complement mutual community and BLM goals and objectives to provide for existing and growing recreation demand.”
Nathan Lindquist, Rifle city planner, said they have Gumption Trail Works lined up as a contractor for the project, and they are ready to go as soon as they get approval to put shovels in the ground.
“That’s exciting, we got the sign-off, we are ready to go, we have accepted a bid from Gumption Trail Works,” Lindquist said. “What we have to wait for now, is for the BLM 30-day appeal period to be over, which would be up June 22.”
The decision on the Grand Hogback Trails environmental assessment authorizes the construction of 18 miles of new mountain bike trails and a new parking area, reroutes the Rifle Arch hiking trail, and designates all hiking trails open to Class 1 e-bikes, except for Rifle Arch.
Trail construction might be delayed until fall depending on any appeals and weather. Lindquist said that the end of June through early July is the hottest portion of the summer, and the contractor is booked part of the summer.
Alison Birkenfeld, vice president of RAMBO, said the Grand Hogback Trails are their main project currently, and they are focused on keeping it progressing.
“That’s going to be a several-season-long project, because the season here gets so hot that trail building ends because of the heat. It will be a four-to-five-year project,” Birkenfeld said.
With the ultimate plan of 18 miles of mountain bike and hiking friendly trails, Lindquist hopes to get four to seven miles in the first phase, depending on how much help they receive from volunteers.
“Part of it we are paying the trail builder to do, they are going to do the stuff where you need machines because it is on a steep slope, and a lot of easier stuff we are going to have the volunteers do,” Lindquist said. “The way the trails are going to be built is really with hikers in mind as well. It’s going to be very scenic, and even though they are sharing the trails in a way, it is designed to be safe for both hikers’ and mountain bikers’ enjoyment.”
The new trail system will be located around the existing hiking trail near the trailhead along Highway 13 north of Rifle.
“It’s a good compromise that uses all that land in a way that’s pretty efficient with the space,” Lindquist said. “It keeps the Rifle Arch itself how it is — it’s a sacred space for both the Ute Tribe and a lot of people who live in the area today.”
The release states the decision aligns with Secretary of Interior’s Order 3356, which directs the BLM and other Department of the Interior bureaus to identify ways to expand access for hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation on agency-managed lands. More information about the Grand Hogback Trails Environmental Assessment can be found at: https://go.usa.gov/xvVcg, and https://go.usa.gov/xvVcW for more about the New Castle ERMA 2020 Trails EA.
“These trail projects are really important to Garfield County, and wouldn’t be possible without cooperation and collaboration with our public land partners,” Garfield County Commissioner Mike Samson said in the news release. “Trails help promote healthy, outdoor lifestyles, contributing to the strength and well-being of our citizens and communities alike.”
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