User-created trails being decommissioned as part of Fraser Valley improvement project
FRASER — Up to six miles of user-created trails in the Leland Creek area will be decommissioned later this month as part of a larger trail modification project by the Sulphur Ranger District and the Headwaters Trails Alliance.
In an open house meeting Wednesday night at the Headwaters Trails Alliance office, rangers Jon Morrissey and Miles Miller explained that all user-created trails in the Fraser Valley will be decommissioned and obliterated as part of the Trails Smart Sizing Project, starting with some in the Leland Creek area, between 158 Road and 159 Road.
“One thing we want to do is try to rally the community around us,” Morrissey said. “So that when they are out there decommissioning trails during the day that it’s not being reopened at night. Give us some time, give us three years or more, to fully implement this decision and see what kind of system we have.”
The Trails Smart Sizing Project is a $1 million project that aims to construct new trails and improve existing ones in the Fraser Valley based off a trails master plan created by the Headwaters Trails Alliance in 2015.
The Forest Service is still working out which user-created trails will be obliterated in the Leland Creek area based on cost and available equipment, but ultimately all 25 miles of user-created trails in the Fraser Valley will be removed.
Miller, recreation planner for the U.S. Forest Service, expects the first phase of decommissioning to begin within a week or two.
“We’re not going to take on anything that going to do damage to any of the stuff we’ve already worked so hard to build, so we want to be really cautious moving forward,” Miller said. “It’s going to be limited tidbits here and there.”
There are many ways to decommission a trail, including decompacting soil by hand or machine, reseeding, recontouring using excavators, moving downed vegetation, felling trees and constructing erosion control measures.
The goal of decommissioning the trails is to clear up confusion regarding the trail system and to improve wildlife habitat in the area. Miller said the current trails negatively impact the wildlife habitat in the area by dissecting it.
Michelle Cowardin, a biologist for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said that recreation and development have impacted deer and elk population in other counties, such as Eagle County.
“We’re trying to balance all of that and still allow wildlife to survive here,” Cowardin said. “We should use what we’re seeing in other places because we don’t want to be those other places.”
Since it is unknown which trails will be decommissioned during this time, the cost is also unknown. However, Meara McQuain, executive director of the Headwaters Trails Alliance, said the standard is $2 per linear foot.
McQuain said they have spent about $210,000 on construction and improvement so far.
Some users were concerned about decommissioning trails affecting the quality of trails and connectivity in the area, but Morrissey said they were being careful to make sure connectivity isn’t impacted and wouldn’t be obliterating user-created trails before new system trails were constructed.
So far, over six miles of new trails or trail reconstruction has occurred, including at Iko and Twin Bridges trails. Over a period of several years, 38 trail projects, including 18 miles of new trails, improvements to existing trails and installation of kiosks and signage will be completed under the project.
“We’re trying to do this for the betterment of outdoor recreation and the environment, to appease all the stakeholder groups, and it is a labor of love,” McQuain said.
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