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TA requests state funding for trail signs and kiosks around valley

“There’s a lot more to go, but having Gothic and Brush Creek done is great.”

By Adam Broderick

A three-year valley-wide trail signage project being managed by the Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association (TA) is preparing for Phase 2: completion of sign and trailhead kiosk installation for mixed-use trails.

So far, installed signs have made a big impact on trail use, and the TA is seeking funding for completion by applying for a grant with county support.

The project goal is ensuring that guests to the Gunnison Valley have an outstanding visitor experience, while simultaneously preventing trespassing and natural resource damage in the backcountry. The TA hopes to have the entire valley signed by the end of 2017.

On Tuesday, October 20 the Board of County Commissioners signed a letter supporting the TA’s application for a $50,000 grant from the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife (CPW). As stated in the letter of support, “The Gunnison Valley’s economy relies heavily on tourism. It’s one of our largest industries. The [TA] has built their marketing strategy on ‘trails and trails’—ski trails in the winter and mountain biking and hiking trails in the summer months. Through this strategy, we’ve seen large gains in Gunnison County sales tax collections.”

The first project phase installed signs at Big Mine Park and the Town Ranch, as well as Trail 401, Snodgrass, Green Lake and Brush Creek. Laurel Runcie, project manager for the TA, says she’s already hearing that the signage is helping.

“Kiosks are still going in, but the map signage has been installed throughout the Brush Creek area and the East River Valley. As we saw last summer, visitors to the valley can use some guidance and some basic ‘rules of the road’ for our high country. The signage is intended to also fit that purpose,” Runcie wrote in an email. “We’ve helped facilitate that in a few ways in 2015 by installing trail map signage in some of the most used areas (Brush Creek and the East River Valley) and we’re still wrapping up our trailhead kiosks. We’re continuing that in 2016 and hope to finish up the project in 2017.”

According to Runcie’s email, the project helps serve three key goals: providing an outstanding experience for visitors; managing multiple user groups and pre-empting potential conflicts between those trail users; and educating trail users about Leave No Trace ethics and private property boundaries.

The CPW grant would require a match of at least 30 percent. County commissioners have agreed to match the full $50,000, as part of the Local Marketing District’s 2016 budget award to the TA, and the town of Crested Butte has agreed to reserve $10,000 of next year’s budget, which would pay for two trailhead kiosks on town property.

In total, the TA would have $110,000 to spend completing the project on time if CPW approves the funds. In order to achieve that goal, Runcie says, the TA is committing more of its budget to the project in 2016 than is required by the match.

Runcie says the TA has been focusing on marketing the experiences that really make this valley stand out and says we cannot afford to be a bucket list item that visitors go to only once. As for which areas get which signage, the TA is still finalizing those details.

Since funds from CPW can be used on only non-motorized trails, the Lower Cement Creek trails and some of the trails near Kebler Pass, like the Dyke Trail, are being considered. However matching funds from the county and the town can be used on motorized trails, and Runcie says Hartman Rocks would be a great fit for that money.

“We want to drive repeat visitation, year after year,” Runcie says. “Important also, as we attract more visitors to the valley, is that we protect our valley and our ranching neighbors and Rocky Mountain Biological Lab from unwanted intrusion.”

Dave Ochs of the Crested Butte-Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce said when he ran into Barbara East, who works with Trampe Ranches, she told him the signs that went up earlier this summer have worked very well.

“Barb East said she barely gave out directions this year because the signs are so easy to read and well placed,” Ochs told the News. “There’s a lot more to go, but having Gothic and Brush Creek done is great.”

This summer saw issues with hikers and bikers trespassing on the Alan family’s ranch property up near Long Lake and Cloud City, but the new signage has reportedly been helpful in the East River (Gothic) Valley and out on Brush Creek.

Ochs added that on Tuesday, October 20, he spoke with someone who recently rode bikes with a visitor from Aspen. That person helps work on trails over there and was marveling in the new signs over here. Both Runcie and Ochs gave big kudos to local Doug Bradbury, who volunteered to personally put up all the signs in the Brush Creek and Gothic drainages.

The TA hopes to know if CPW approves the grant application by April 2016.

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