Master Trails Plan crucial to Fraser Valley’s future | SkyHiNews.com

Master Trails Plan crucial to Fraser Valley’s future

Keith Sanders
Mountain Biking with Keith

Keith Sanders

One of the most important meetings ever to be held regarding outdoor recreation and trails is happening on July 21 at 6:30 p.m. at the Winter Park Town Hall (50 Vasquez Rd.). This is the second public meeting and open house for Headwaters Trails Alliance Master Trails Plan Subarea 1 (Winter Park / Fraser Valley).

I say this as our economy is based upon outdoor recreation and due to that we all have an interest in what happens regarding outdoor recreation and trails in and around Winter Park. This plan will most likely shape the future of trails and outdoor recreation in the Winter Park and Fraser Valley area. Scott Linnenburger, HTA's Master Trails Plan consultant, and HTA Staff and Board Members will be present to answer questions and to discuss the plan. There will also be an opportunity for the public to give input (this will be defined at the meeting).

This plan has been a long time coming. I looked back to the fall of 2011 when Grand Mountain Bike Alliance began and developing a master plan was one of the top priorities. You may ask why, which is a simple yet complicated question.

Prior to 2011 a master plan was needed yet no real action had been started. Trail groups and land managers were somewhat autonomous, meaning that they made decisions but there was not a method to exchange information and ideas or a document to reference regarding visions, goals and objectives of the trail system and land management.

“The Master Trails Plan will form the foundation of the future of our trail system, but just having the document does not mean the process is complete. Think of it as a vision that will create action. The unknown is what that action will be.”

An example was the decommissioning of trails in August 2011 through a U.S. Forest Service project. This project not only decommissioned old logging roads but accidentally decommissioned existing public trails such as D4. Even though many government agencies and trail groups had been notified of the project, it still went forward without any real review from those who were notified.

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Some of the decommissioned logging roads may have been good routes for trails when looking at the trail system in a macro context and what is needed to improve the quality of experience. The takeaway from that project is that if we had had a plan of what the vision of the trail system was, then that would have been a great tool for land managers to reference when looking at managing the land and projects with long term impacts.

For many years our trail system remained status quo and changed very little. In fact mountain bikers lost access to many trails due to wilderness bills and changes in recreational management as well as other factors. Routes such as Vasquez Pass and Bottle Pass are no longer open to mountain bike use. Land exchanges (public land transferred to private ownership) closed many trails in the Ranch Creek area, which had miles of trails and served as the key connector to Devil's Thumb Park and the High Lonesome Trail.

New trail construction was virtually nonexistent in the Winter Park area outside of the Winter Park to Granby trail. Social trail building exploded (this will be a topic of future articles) as people took it upon themselves to create different experiences that for the most part did not exist.

Now back to the Master Trails Plan. Just the process of users and government agencies working together to create the Master Trails Plan has already created on the ground changes. A few examples are the trails such as Yankee Doodle, Serendipity, Sundog, and Akimas Way created by the Town of Winter Park. Twisted Ankle and Arrow have been become part of the official Forest Servic trail system . Broken Thumb is being rerouted to create a seamless connection to Twisted Ankle and eliminate a section of trail that is difficult to maintain.

Trails in the Leland Creek area (D4, WTB area) have seen changes such as WTB being rerouted in order to eliminate an eroded road and improve quality of experience. Local popular trails Leap Frog and Ho Chi Minh are being used as a foundation for a reroute to create an official Forest Service trail that will offer a better user experience and connect to other trails in the area. Communication among user groups and land managers has vastly improved.

The Master Trails Plan will form the foundation of the future of our trail system, but just having the document does not mean the process is complete. Think of it as a vision that will create action. The unknown is what that action will be. Where will trails go and what changes are desired? What new trails will be created? And just as important, what trails will go away? How will this be funded? Money is needed to not only address changes in trails but also to do environmental studies as required by law.

Who will be responsible to do the work? Do we have the infrastructure in place to do any of this? As I stated before, our economy is driven by outdoor recreation but do we actually take that seriously and invest in the infrastructure to ensure the quality of that overall experience? This doesn't just mean on the ground changes, but does Headwaters Trails Alliance, who is tasked to oversee the plan ,have the staff and funding necessary to move forward? If not, what can be done to change that?

I encourage you to attend the meeting and become involved with user groups such as Grand Mountain Bike Alliance or Headwaters Trails Alliance in order to see the plan become action and create the best possible trail system.

Group ride

Beavers Sports Shop next the Best Western Hotel does a group ride Friday at 6 p.m. This ride is for the intermediate and above rider. We will explore the local trail system as a group. For more info call the shop at 726-5988.

Looking for more information or want to get involved as a mountain biker. Like Grand Mountain Bike Alliance (GMBA) on Facebook. GMBA is your local mountain bike group. Check out Mountainbikecapitalusa.com. Great site by the Winter Park Chamber!

Keith Sanders is the President of the Grand Mountain Bike Alliance, 3x US National Mountain Bike Champion and owner of Beavers Sports Shop. You can reach me at keith@winterparkskirental.com.

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