Neighbor feedback spurs Slate River Trailhead design

Goal to make improvements this fall

By Kendra Walker

After holding two public forums earlier this month and hearing neighborhood observations regarding proposed improvement changes to the Slate River Trailhead, the Crested Butte Land Trust is updating their design to accommodate community feedback.

It was important to the Crested Butte Land Trust to involve the public’s opinion when making improvements to the trailhead, with proposed changes including reconfigured parking, a potential restroom structure and more informational signage. “We want to engage the folks who are out there the most and using it, and have them guide what’s worked at other trailheads and feel more respect for the area with their buy-in,” said Crested Butte Land Trust stewardship manager Brian Lieberman.

Representatives of the Alpine Meadows HOA were in attendance at the public forums, and also submitted a letter of feedback regarding the proposed changes.

“We expressed several concerns at the meeting, and would like to take this opportunity to reiterate them,” the letter stated. “But first, to be clear, while the proposed development does affect our neighborhood, our concerns expressed here are not from a ‘NIMBY’ perspective but from the perspective of members of a broad Crested Butte community that values open space, habitat, viewshed and environment, and at the same time values opportunities to access this space to more fully experience and enjoy it, within reasonable bounds.”

The letter continued, “Many are concerned that the logic of ‘accommodating recreation’ supersedes a thoughtful understanding of ‘what recreation and how much’ and ‘what impact on habitat and environment,’ as well as how the Forest Service would receive the flow into the backcountry from this hub.”

The letter addressed concerns with the trailhead updates accommodating higher traffic demands, resulting in additional congestion and snowmobile usage (“If you build it, they will come”). The letter also expressed concerns about the parking area being an ineffective use of conserved land and a negative impact on summer viewsheds from nearby trails and of Nicholson Lake.

Environmental impact was also noted and the HOA requested an Environmental Impact Assessment be conducted on the effect of the project on Nicholson Lake. According to the Alpine Meadows HOA letter, “The impact on additional silt run-off from a graveled parking area into Nicholson Lake was not adequately addressed. Though we have stocked the lake in the past, our recent efforts have led to a return of osprey, eagles and an increase use of the lake by our Blue Heron rookery. The silting in of our lake that has occurred as traffic has increased may be impacted even more by the disruption of the surface area as it drains down to the western end of the lake.”

The Crested Butte Land Trust confirmed they received the feedback letter from Alpine Meadows and is “currently making every reasonable attempt to integrate their requests into the updated design,” said Lieberman. “We are expecting the updated design to be completed in the next two weeks, at which point, it will again be circulated to key stakeholders and the community. There will be one last round of public comment, and then that design will be finalized.”

If the new design moves forward, the goal is to make some improvements to the trailhead this fall ahead of the winter recreation season, dependent on Gunnison’s County’s construction availability, said Lieberman.

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