Group aims to promote trail system off Buford Road
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
A growing number of people are learning about a public trails system off the Buford Road north of New Castle, and a small corps of volunteers is hoping to make that number grow some more.
The trails all are located on U.S. Forest Service lands north of Rifle, Silt and New Castle, at an elevation of about 9,300 feet. The trailhead is at the intersection of the Buford Road (County Road 245/West Elk Creek Road) and Forest Road 189.
First authorized as public trails in 2003, they are meant to serve mountain bikers, hikers and equestrians in the summers, and backcountry snow enthusiasts in the winter.
“The ski trails, we start working on that as soon as there’s appreciable snow,” said Tod Tibbetts, executive director of the West Elk Multi-Use Club, which grooms and sets tracks for cross country skiers on more than a dozen miles of trails throughout the winter months.
The group also clears trails in the summer, staring with an annual National Trails Day effort in early June.
Tibbetts, who by day is an IT manager for a lumber company, told the Garfield Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) recently that he is hoping to expand both the trails system and the numbers of people who use them, as well as add a few old cow-camp cabins to the network for overnight users.
Tibbetts and Kyle Grambley, recreation specialist for the U.S. Forest Service in Rifle, told the BOCC that they have their eyes on three such cabins that are in “decent shape,” as Tibbetts put it. The cabins, he said, are in the Mansfield Creek, Nettle Creek and Clinetop regions controlled by the Forest Service.
Grambley said her agency has agreed to consider the idea, which surprised Commissioner John Martin.
“That’s a change in policy,” he said. “Before, they just burned them all down,” due to liability concerns.
Tibbetts said the WEMUC, as his organization is known, has been working with other citizen volunteer groups, including equestrians who pack in supplies and food for volunteers working on the trails.
Next June, he said, the plan is to put together two different work days to finish clearing out the Mansfield Ditch trail, named for an irrigation ditch built in the 1920s or so but abandoned because it never worked properly.
That trail will nearly double the mileage of the system maintained by the WEMUC, he said, as well as provide a relatively moderate route for mountain bikers to enter the lands adjacent to the Flat Tops Wilderness Area.
The Mansfield Ditch trail, once used by hunters and horse-packing outfits, has been little used in the past decade and become heavily overgrown, Tibbetts said, and clearing out that brush is a primary goal for June 2012.
The BOCC on Sept. 19 agreed to donate $3,000 to the cause, to help cover operating costs, equipment maintenance and insurance fees, among other operational needs.
The WEMUC also gets donations from municipalities throughout Garfield County, and from private donations.
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