Forest Service OKs Basalt to Gypsum dirt bike trail
The U.S. Forest Service paved the way Wednesday for approval of two trails that will connect larger trail networks in Basalt and Gypsum for dirt bikers.
White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams signed a draft decision notice and finding of no significant impact for creation of a singletrack trail between Basalt and Gypsum.
The significance of the decision is the Forest Service worked with environmental groups and dirt bikers to come up with a solution that satisfies them all.
Wilderness Workshop, the valley’s oldest homegrown environmental group, had a seat at the negotiating table along with the Colorado Backcountry Trail Riders Alliance, which represents local dirt bikers. The Audubon Society and Rocky Mountain Recreation Initiative also were part of the talks.
Mike Thuillier, treasurer in the dirt bikers’ club, said it was nice to see the agreement formalized after discussions for more than 10 years.
Will Roush, conservation director of Wilderness Workshop, said the Forest Service brokered a deal that features an “adaptive and proactive” management plan. It sets a goal of how it wants the trail system to work and how to achieve the goals. If they aren’t achieved, different management steps will be adopted, Roush said.
Wilderness Workshop appreciated that the agency isn’t approving a trail and hoping it works out.
Roush said Wilderness Workshop doesn’t anticipate filing an objection to the plan. This process was a model for bringing different groups together, he said.
“It makes the point that we’re not against all recreation,” Roush said of Wilderness Workshop.
In practical terms, the proposed decision would legalize trails that have been in use for decades but not formally recognized in any past travel management plans.
The 6.6-mile Green Gate Trails and 1.6-mile Milepost 1 Trail off of Red Mountain Road near Cottonwood Pass will be constructed for singletrack motorized uses. A parking area on Red Table Road would be relocated out of a wetlands, and the area will be rehabilitated. A new parking area will be constructed to accommodate seven vehicles with dirt bike trailers. In addition, 27.4 miles of unofficial trails from the shoulder of Basalt Mountain onto the slopes of Red Table Mountain will be closed and rehabilitated.
Thuillier said the Trail Riders’ Alliance has worked with the Forest Service to identify the most desirable route to connect the trail networks. He said dirt bikers will welcome the addition of the Green Gate and Milepost 1 trails into the official network. A lot of riders feel the trails should have been legalized a long time ago, but the process takes time.
Fitzwilliams pledged that the Forest Service would look at a Basalt to Gypsum connector for dirt bikers shortly after the 2011 Travel Management Plan was released.
Thuillier said many of the trails targeted for rehabilitation are “kind of worthless spurs that go nowhere” though some connect back to Red Table Mountain Road. He said he felt most riders wouldn’t object to the closure of those routes.
Dave Hjerleid, a midvalley dirt biker, welcomed the formal addition of Green Gate and Milepost 1 trails because so few routes are open for dirt bikers. Conditions are becoming crowded, he said, and therefore unsafe at times.
The Forest Service’s draft decision said the trails were approved to create “two motorized ingress/egress points on the Red Table Road creating loop opportunities. This would allow access for riders of varying degrees of skill and travel management flexibility.”
Additional information on the project can be found on the White River National Forest website at http://www.fs.fed.us/nepa/fs-usda-pop.php/?project=41619.
A 45-day objection period was triggered Wednesday. Objections can be sent to Reviewing Officer, Dan Jiron, Regional Forester, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Region, 740 Simms, Golden, CO 80401; Fax: 303-275-5134, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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