Letter: Rio Grande closure wrong
I live in Carbondale, and for some 50 years have regularly used public trails such as the Rio Grande Trail for hiking and bicycling. The two-mile section between the Catherine Store Road and Rock Bottom Ranch is exceptionally attractive year-round in that it runs between a rushing river on one side and rugged forested hillsides on the other.
As reported in the June 30 edition of the Post Independent, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority — the public agency that owns the trail — closed that section of the trail to public use because of cougar kittens being sighted along the trail. The trail is lined by such abundant vegetation that it is reasonable to believe that a mother cougar could be lurking near her kittens and might attack a person who seemed to pose a threat to them.
This same dense vegetation also provides cover for other species of wildlife — including deer and possibly elk. Over the millennia, these animals have evolved the instinct to use this cover to avoid predators such as cougars, wolves, bears and human hunters. The animals develop their own sets of trails that enable them to move between places of concealment and sources of food, and they do so largely at night.
That is why it is ridiculous for this section of trail to be closed to the public for four months during the winter, allegedly to protect animals that would allegedly be so terrorized by people simply using the trail on snowshoes or cross country skis as to threaten their survival.
Furthermore, I traveled this two-mile section of trail immediately after it was opened on May 1 and examined the animal droppings along it. Aside from goose droppings, I found only 10 piles of deer droppings, some of which were probably deposited before the trail was closed in December. Such a light concentration of droppings indicates that the trail receives very modest usage by wildlife, and casts further doubt on the speculation about harm to wildlife on which the closure of the trail in winter has been based.
Carl Ted Stude
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