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Summer is coming… partnerships are crucial

It is off-season and people are still stoked to be skiing powder (not just corn) in the backcountry. But it is obvious we are gearing up for the summer recreation season. And, as has become usual, we are now dealing with how we are going to handle the expected summer crowds.

Of course I believe such a focus is imperative in both the short and long-term. I like the county’s informal stance that before we expand and grow more and more amenities, we need to control what we have. That is coming together in a number of ways including the STOR (Sustainable Tourism and Outdoor Recreation) committee partnerships.

The latest efforts come with the release of the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association five-year plan and the Slate River Working Group 2019 river management plan.

The CBMBA plan, self described as “lofty,” seems a decent endeavor. First, the group is trying to get feedback from as many people as possible. That is always appreciated…if they listen. And I trust that they will. CBMBA is pretty good about making the extra effort to partner with others instead of drawing lines in the dirt.

They want to hear from ranchers, hunters, conservationists, neighbors and the community in general. The overarching idea is to try and get mountain bikers off the roads. That will mean focusing on new trails to connect existing trails. I am a big fan of single track but I am a bigger fan of retaining the diversity of the valley—so if the ranchers express legitimate concerns with some of the ideas and specific trail proposals, I‘ll likely side with them.

Personally, I love that CBMBA stepped up and spearheaded the CB Conservation Corps that is there to directly mitigate the negative ramifications of more people using the local backcountry. I can’t think of a better effort that has come from the grass roots community. It gives them a ton of cred in the valley.

As for the proposal itself, personally I don’t anticipate riding from Crested Butte to Buena Vista or CB to Carbondale. Gunnison to Montrose sounds way out of my wheelhouse. Sometimes I feel like the emphasis from CBMBA is on the hardcore riders who would never own a bike rack and ride to Mary’s Loop in Fruita from their house on Whiterock.

Understanding that the five-year plan is a broad overview, CBMBA is clear that one of its priorities is to work with partners. Hear, hear!

That same ethic shines through with the Slate River Working Group plan that was formed to manage growing use of the Slate River that is resulting in conflicts. That group of 18 has worked for well over a year to come up with ideas to mitigate and manage floaters. Education, signage and community outreach all top the list on how to attack the problem.

The most “challenging” idea is to get the word out about a “voluntary no-float period” on the upper Slate River that is in place between now and July 15. The idea is to get the word out that blue herons have a rookery out by the Wildbird subdivision and need a little privacy while they are raising their newly hatched chicks. Having a frat house flotilla of inner tubes tied together with old school Slayer blasting from the speakers doesn’t mix well with fledging herons.

Getting the word out that the Slate is not a wet ride on the high mountain Disneyland tour is important and the primary outreach message. Not everyone will respect that theory, but the majority of people will and that will make a big and noticeable difference.

The group is doing a number of other things like putting bathrooms at the major put-ins, figuring out how to get floater friendly fences in place across the river instead of barbed wire, reminding people not to trespass on private property and explaining how to treat not just wildlife but also grazing cattle.

I know the conversations within the working group were not always pleasant but like so often around here, speaking your truth is appreciated, and from that, honest collaboration can be achieved. That appears to have been the case here. So please don’t float the upper Slate until later in July.

It is off-season but it is time to be thinking about summer. Summer used to be pretty dead but that has changed dramatically.

I appreciate how both CBMBA and the Slate River Working Group folks really put in the time, the thought, and the real work to offer solutions to mitigate impacts from our growing tourism economy. That is as important as getting more people here…in fact it is more important. These two groups are brilliant examples of how the community can come together to strike compromises that work for everyone. Thank you.

—Mark Reaman

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