14 miles of trails to be de-commissioned to protect users and resources
by Kristy Acuff
Visitors to the Taylor Park area during the next two weeks may see work crews from the U.S. Forest Service busy decommissioning illegal roads and trails in the area. Crews from the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forests’ Gunnison Ranger District have already begun work to eliminate a total of 14 miles of illegal roads and trails in areas north of the Trading Post, south of trail 765, and an area near Union Park.
“These trails have existed for some time, causing considerable resource damage, leading to erosion of hillsides that contaminates aquatic habitats,” says Kimberleee Phillips, GMUG public affairs officer. “The routes have been created by vehicles driving off designated routes, into the vegetation. After several vehicles travel on one path, eventually a route becomes evident on the landscape and it becomes hard for the public to tell which routes are legal/designated routes and which are illegal/user created routes. The Forest Service is trying to make it more obvious to the public which routes are legal, safe, and maintained routes on the landscape and which have been newly created and are closed,” Phillips explains.
In addition to causing resource damage, the illegal routes do not receive regular maintenance and this can lead to dangerous conditions for riders, according to Phillips.
To restore the degraded landscape, Forest Service crews will first break up the compacted soil to encourage re-vegetation. Crews will build water bars to stop erosion of the soils into nearby fish habitat and then install signs prohibiting motorized traffic.
“We want to notify the public in advance so riders understand the underlying rationale and are not surprised when these illegal, though longstanding, routes are decommissioned,” says Gunnison District ranger Matt McCombs.
The Forest Service has been working with Gunnison Valley OHV [Off-Highway Vehicle] Alliance of Trail riders (the GOATs) to help spread the message of “Stay the Trail” and help highlight responsible OHV use, according to Phillips.
“Travel management in Taylor Park will always be an ongoing process. We’re playing catch-up at this point but the intent is to keep the Gunnison’s world-class motorized system sustainable by maintaining the hundreds of miles of legal routes while together staying true to our conservation charge and closing and rehabbing illegal user created routes when and where they present,” Phillips explains.