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Winter Park trail improvement project proposed

Keith Sanders
Mountain Biking with Keith
A trail work day with HTA and IMBA.
Photo Courtesy of Jeff Russell |

The USFS is proposing the largest trail improvement project that Grand County has ever seen. This proposal will create and improve nearly 20 miles of trails in and around the Town of Winter Park. I have been fortunate to see the proposed improvements to the trail system and am very impressed on the scope of the plan. Included in the plan are new trails, adoption of social trails, trail improvements, pump track, trail reroutes in order to connect trails and create a more seamless trail experience and more.

This plan has been a long time coming and not an easy one to put together. In October of 2011 Grand Mountain Bike Alliance (GMBA) was conceived with the intention of improving the mountain bike experience. Prior to 2011 our trail system was one that was not only stagnant in trail improvements but we had in fact seen a reduction in available trails for nearly all users. One of our main objectives was to create a Master Trails Plan in order to develop a true trail system that provides a wide variety of trail experiences on a planned trail system. That plan was completed in December of 2012.

Headwaters Trails Alliance (HTA)was tasked with creating a Master Trails Plan that represents all users. HTA took the GMBA plan as well as input from many other user groups to create a Master Trails Plan for the Winter Park area. Multiple groups and agencies were consulted in order create the best possible end result for all involved. Colorado Parks and Wildlife gave input critical to protecting valuable wildlife habitat. USFS met with permit holders to determine their use and needs. The USFS has taken that information and more importantly positively reacted with their proposed plan of action. This is a great example of different users with similar interest working together to achieve a common goal.

The result of this effort is a plan proposing to not just create new trails but to change the current trail system and improve it by addressing what type of experience is lacking for the users. If this plan is executed as it is proposed our trail system will be greatly improved. Trails such as Lower Leap, Iko and Broken Spade will become official trails on the system. New trails will be constructed to connect the top of Leap Frog to the Elk Creek trails and then Elk Creek to Iko. Proposed is a new motorized singletrack from the top of Elk Meadows to WTB. Parts of WTB will be rerouted to create a sustainable trail and increase the overall length. Chickadee will have a connector to what is locally known as Eye To Eye (part of the Winter Park Resort trails project). The Elk Creek “trail” will be converted from an old road to 50” wide ATV trail. There is more but I think this paints a bit of a picture. If this plan goes forward it can also be used as an example in how to address trails in other parts of Grand County.

There remain many steps to implement the USFS proposed plan. First, is an open house public meeting from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Feb. 25 at the HTA offices in Fraser. Next, is a comment period and then the final decision on a course of action. After that an Environmental Assessment will be completed and then work will need to be done to implement improvements to the trail system. That will take not only money but on the ground volunteer efforts as well. The USFS will be creating a website for this project with maps and information that includes the proposal as well as trial changes, suggested difficulty, new trails and allowed use.

Looking for more information? 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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