Project moving forward
The Board of County Commissioners offered $2,500 from their economic development fund toward the planning of a multi-use trail in Baxter Gulch, southwest of Crested Butte.
The proposed trail would start northwest of Whetstone Mountain Ranch and would extend two miles (3.5 miles with switchbacks) toward the national forest to the west.
“The county has been working on this access for 10 to 12 years. What happened over the last few years were negotiations with the land owners that could provide access to the current route,” said commissioner Jim Starr, who has been active in the Baxter Gulch Trail project throughout the process.
Crested Butte town planner John Hess and Joellen Fonken, chairperson of the Gunnison County Trails Commission, made the visit to the commissioners’ meeting on Tuesday, September 16 hoping to get a little financial help to get the project moving.
After years of consideration, there was now a sense of urgency to the project because the Trails Commission identified Baxter Gulch as an area of concern, in part because the Forest Service is proposing it as a Wilderness Study Area.
If the area were to get the wilderness designation, uses allowed on the trail would be restricted to non-mechanized travel, or basically hikers and horses.
“That would not allow mountain bikes to use [Baxter Gulch] as an access area. The Trails Commission kind of has a problem with the idea of developing a trail in this area adjacent to Colorado’s mountain bike capital, if mountain bikes can’t use the area,” said Fonken.
Starr responded by saying, “Although it would be unfortunate if mountain bikers weren’t allowed in there, I don’t think it is reason enough not to support the trail.”
In addition to the uncertainty surrounding the land designation by the Forest Service, concerns were raised about parking for users of the area. Fonken said it had been recommended people park in the town’s lot adjacent to the Public Works building off of Hwy. 135, but director of Public Works Marlene Crosby said that wouldn’t work for long.
“There is a conflict with that parking arrangement because in the summer we use those lots to [store materials],” said Crosby, adding that the town is addressing the issue.
No solution to the parking dilemma was reached at the meeting and will be brought up again in meetings with the town.
In the estimate for the layout and construction of the trail provided to the commissioners by Salida-based Arrowhead Trails, Inc., the price for the completed project is more than $85,000. But Hess said that estimate isn’t accurate.
“We’re talking about $100,000 for a much, much shorter trail in town. And the price doesn’t include a bridge over Baxter Gulch. I can’t imagine it does [include the bridge] for $85,000,” he said.