Letter: Trails groups ensure access
The recent closure of the Beaver Creek Road illustrates perfectly the function of and the need for organizations like West Elk Multi-Use Club.
Since 2002, the West Elk Multi-Use Club has fostered a cooperative partnership with the White River National Forest, Rifle Ranger District through a special use permit to mark, maintain and promote the West Elk Multi-Use Trails, located in the Flat Tops west of Glenwood Springs. Multi-use is a key management principle for the Forest Service. The special use permit designates the West Elk trails for hiking, biking, horseback riding, cross country skiing, snowshoeing and dog sledding, but the trails are closed to motorized vehicles from December through May. The three-loop winter recreation trail system covers approximately 12 miles. The trailhead is located on Forest Road 819, on the Buford Road north of New Castle. The West Elk trails are a no-fee area. However voluntary donations are encouraged to help cover the costs of trail maintenance and winter grooming operations.
Because of WEMUC’s special use permit, the West Elk trails were included in the 2011 White River National Forest Travel Management Plan and that ensures year-round access for trail users. The forest service lacks the resources and manpower to maintain and promote trails and therefore they are eager to work with trails groups like WEMUC.
The general misconception on the part of the public is that there are government programs in place that provide maintenance and funding for trails. Nothing could be further from the truth. The state of Colorado does not fund trail maintenance or winter grooming operations, and funding from local governments is extremely limited. For those reasons it’s up to volunteer trails organizations like WEMUC to not only maintain the trails but also to fund them in order to prevent closures such as occurred on the Beaver Creek Road this winter. The West Elk Multi-Use Club is the result of more than a decade of hard work and determination by a few dedicated volunteers and the financial support of trail users.
In order to continue to develop and maintain trail systems in Garfield County, there must be cooperative efforts on the part of trail users and local governments. Currently, the only way trail users can ensure access to non-motorized trails is to financially support trails organizations like West Elk Multi-Use Club that act as stewards to protect public access to designated trails now and well into the future.
For more information about the West Elk Multi-Use Trails visit the West Elk Multi-Use Club blog at https://wemuc.wordpress.com.
Peggy Tibbetts, Secretary/treasurer
West Elk Multi-Use Club
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