Trail troubles: Timing of Winter Park construction projects may close several popular spots this summer
Several popular trails in the Winter Park area, including Jim Creek, Buck Creek and Vasquez Creek, are set to be closed June 1 for various construction projects, raising concerns about where locals and visitors will be able to recreate this summer, according to the Headwaters Trails Alliance.
HTA informed the Winter Park Town Council of the issue on Tuesday and encouraged the town’s leaders to do what they could to mitigate the impacts of various construction projects to the trails.
“There is going to be a very limited access from town to recreational trails,” said Meara McQuain, executive director of HTA. “Unfortunately, the timing is pretty awful with post-COVID crisis as things are opening back up.”
A few of the closures, like those at Jim Creek, Buck Creek and Devil’s Thumb, are due to Denver Water projects, which are unlikely to be delayed and it’s unclear if trail reroutes will be an option, McQuain said.
“We’re under the impression, they will be closed for the duration of the summer, not certain of the fall,” she added. “Those two (Jim Creek and Devil’s Thumb) really take away two of the three most popular hikes in the Fraser Valley in the summer.”
However, several other trail closures come as the result of new housing projects. The Roam development will block access to the town from the Fraser River Trail, Rendezvous will close Ski Idlewild Road up to Meadow and Yankee Doodle trails, as well as block access to the Idlewild trail system from behind Hideaway Park.
“The Fraser River Trail, there is not going to be access (at Roam) to town, which is probably one of the most concerning projects that we know about,” McQuain said. “I’m hopeful that we can come up with a solution.”
Vasquez Road will also be closed up to Van Anderson Road due to a water pipe replacement, as well as a US Forest Service logging contract and construction of a railroad underpass that will close access to the Leland Creek area.
The recent Ridge Trail closure due to continual trespassing doesn’t have a reopening date at this time. Other trails throughout the Fraser Valley, such as Double Bit, Broken Spade and Burnout Loop, also have trail reconstruction planned for this summer, though HTA said it will work those projects around other closures.
Winter Park Resort has also not yet announced its summer opening date.
All of the closures paint a grim picture for summer recreators who are eager to return to the trails after the stay at home and safer at home orders.
“Collectively, this paints a story that ‘oh, jeez, our access is really in jeopardy this upcoming summer,’ especially coming out of our recreational amenities being affected due to the COVID crisis,” McQuain said. “We understand that the closures definitely need to happen, we’re not anti-development, we’re just trying to work with everybody.”
Council member Art Ferrari, who is also on the board of Grand County Water and Sanitation District No. 1 which is conducting the Vasquez Road water pipe replacement, said he is working to keep some access on Vasquez open to connect to other trails.
“I’m trying really hard to keep open up to where you can take a right and get up on the western trails,” Ferrari said.
Mayor Nick Kutrumbos expressed concerns about the closures’ impact on the community’s mental health and economy, as well as encouraged prioritizing the projects or providing trail reroutes if possible.
Agreeing with the sentiment, Town Manager Keith Riesberg shared some actions the town can take to help mitigate the impact, including rerouting trails where possible, installing signage to guide people to open trails and communicating construction closures ahead of time so that recreators are aware.
The Winter Park Fraser Chamber of Commerce also plans to have an online trails map with real time information about closures on its website in June.
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