“My Wilderness experience is that experience…”
Overall, the mountain bike community fared pretty well under the proposed travel plan. Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association’s president John Chandler said the group is in contact with the Forest Service and recently submitted comments, mostly positive, on the travel plan for the Gunnison National Forest.
“Our club feels that the Forest Service has done a great job of reviewing comments and feedback, and drafting a plan that they can have a handle on,” said Chandler. “I think the work we do plays a part in their decision making.
“We don’t tell the Forest Service we’re going to do something. We ask them, can we do this, and will you come do it with us. They’re leaving so many miles open because of historic use and maintenance we help provide as a user group.”
Chandler said he would gladly give up mountain biking on Carbon Creek Trail if it meant stopping the mine. But he isn’t enamored with Hidden Gems and HCCA’s Wilderness-first approach. Instead he’d rather see groups like CBMBA and HCCA work together to develop mutually beneficial travel policies, and unite to keep a mine from operating on Mt. Emmons.
“Lets bond together—we want to keep the mine out—what’s it going to take? I know I don’t want a tailings pond back there [in the Whetstone area] because I’ve seen it with my own eyes. That place is awesome,” he said. “I don’t want a tailings pond back there.”
Chandler said he’d like to see a mutually beneficial designation for the Whetstone area where mountain biking would be allowed alongside hikers and horse-packers. “We’ve got to take the lead, and work together. We are not against HCCA—the olive branch has been extended—but they are bound to their mission statement. HCCA and Hidden Gems would be a lot better off if they had more mountain bikers on board. They’re creating their own rift.”
HCCA Executive Director Dan Morse said, “There is no organic act defining what would go into that kind of legislation, defining how to manage uses in that way. It is very difficult to come up with a customized piece of legislation and pass it in a reasonable timeframe. And certainly HCCA is not pursuing that by looking to come up with a custom management prescription for the Whetstone area.”
From CBMBA’s perspective, the Carbon Creek Trail is about preserving a unique backcountry experience. “We’re looking for that backcountry experience,” Chandler said. “From our club’s perspective, that backcountry experience is crucial. My Wilderness experience is that experience. Isn’t that what you live here for?”