RMNP considers bikes on East Shore Trail
Trail riding is a favorite summer pastime in Grand County, with local resorts like Winter Park and Granby Ranch offering miles of lift serviced single-track options. Our local National Forest and BLM land also offer a profusion of trails to explore and enjoy. One region of Grand County though is decidedly off-limits to bicycling, Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP).
Bicycling enthusiasts may soon be able to enjoy the breathtaking vistas of Shadow Mountain Lake from atop their two-wheelers as officials in RMNP consider allowing bicycles on a two-mile section of the East Shore Trail (EST).
Grand Lake Town Manager Jim White spoke positively about the proposal saying, “We are excited about the potential for a two mile stretch of bike riding trial adjacent to town.”
The Town of Grand Lake has already officially thrown their support behind the proposal. During the Town’s first Board of Trustees meeting in 2016 the Board approved the signing of a letter support by Mayor Judy Burke. “On behalf of the Grand Lake Board of Trustees I would like to express our continued support of allowing bicycles (non-motorized mechanized use) on the EST,” the letter states. “The Town, in partnership with the Headwaters Trail Alliance (HTA) and Grand County, has consistently expressed the desire for bicycle use on the EST.”
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The EST is an already existing trail within Rocky Mountain National Park. The trail runs north/south along the eastern shore of Shadow Mountain Lake. Currently RMNP allows hiking and horseback riding on the EST but prohibits the use of bicycles.
Rocky’s Public Affairs Officer Kyle Patterson outlined the background for the Park’s consideration of allowing bicycles on the EST. “At the request of local trail proponents, the 2009 wilderness legislation excluded the East Shore Trail Area from the wilderness boundary and directed the park to consider whether to allow bicycle use through the park’s normal planning process,” Patterson stated.
After the initial requests from local trail proponents were received the Park put out an environmental assessment (EA) to evaluate potential effects of allowing bicycles on the trail. The EA was then made available for public comment and review for a 46-day period that ended in early March 2014, according to Patterson. Along with the comment and review period two public meetings on the issue were held.
“Because the park is not the trail proponent, the NPS (National Park Service) did not identify a preferred alternative in the EA,” Patterson stated. “Preferring instead to gather public input before identifying a preferred alternative.”
The East Shore Trail EA evaluated two alternative approaches for the EST: Alternative A and Alternative B.
Alternative A proposes no action be taken on the EST and that current management practices continue. “The NPS would manage the East Shore Trail as it is currently,” stated Patterson. “The use of bicycles would not be permitted anywhere on the trail within the park.”
Alternative B proposes allowing bicycle use with minor trail modifications. “This alternative proposes minor improvements to a two-mile portion of the East Shore Trail within the national park to accommodate bicycle use and other existing trail uses,” Patterson stated. “The proposed improvements include rerouting a quarter-mile section of the trial to improve public safety, trail sustainability and to avoid impacts to natural and cultural resources. A number of adaptive management strategies are included in this alternative to avoid conflicts among users and to avoid substantial interference with the nature and purposes of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail.”
After Feb. 1, 2016 the NPS will evaluate public comments received on the proposed rule. From there officials within the Park Service will decide whether or not to publish a special regulation that would authorize bicycle use on the EST.
“If the NPS does decide to allow bicycle use trail proponents will be responsible for implementing Alternative B and the accompanying mitigation measures,” Patterson stated.
Rocky has over 350 miles of trails within the Park, none of which currently allow bicycle use.
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