Proposed Slate River trailhead changes on hold for this winter

Planning process still ongoing

[ By Kendra Walker ]

This fall, the Crested Butte Land Trust, in partnership with Gunnison County, the town of Crested Butte and the Crested Butte Nordic Council, initiated several community engagement sessions for the public to give feedback on potential changes to the Slate River trailhead in order to help accommodate increased winter recreational usage.

The proposed changes included a reconfigured parking alignment, bathrooms and increased informational signage. However, based on the feedback received from the community, the involved stakeholders have decided not to move forward this winter with making any changes but will continue the ongoing process of planning.

“As one of the four convening members of the Slate River trailhead planning process along with Gunnison County, the town of Crested Butte and the Crested Butte Nordic Council, the Land Trust has been focused on diligently incorporating community feedback into the design process. Our intention was to deliver a well thought-out proposal, that included feedback received from the community engagement sessions, before the start of the 2020/21 winter season,” said Crested Butte Land Trust stewardship manager Brian Lieberman. “However, owing to a number of factors, this process is still ongoing. The project convening members have elected not to rush this process and continue our planning discussions over the winter.”

Two public meetings on the site were held in August and since then the neighbors in the Alpine Meadows subdivision have expressed major concerns with making that location a focal point of the entrance to Slate River public lands.

Lieberman said the Land Trust’s goal this winter is to be an active partner with the stakeholders to continue data collection at the trailhead and get a deeper understanding of how folks are using it. The Land Trust hopes to reengage with other entities that own property near the Slate River trailhead and come up with a more global solution that will redirect planning efforts county-wide rather than a Land Trust-led initiative.

“The organization has had a long history of partnering with stakeholders to facilitate sustainable access to the backcountry from the Slate River trailhead. This has been a longstanding component of our work owing to the fact that winter plowing on Slate River Road ends on conserved lands owned by the Land Trust,” said Lieberman. “However, our main charge will be continued protection of the conservation values on our conserved lands in the area. The Land Trust looks forward to continuing these planning discussions as a stakeholder over the winter season. We look forward to continuing this collaborative approach, re-evaluating this winter and bringing it back to the community for additional feedback.”

With the growing popularity of winter backcountry recreation, and with an anticipated increase in backcountry interest this winter amid the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic, Lieberman also said the Land Trust will continue to be an active partner in addressing winter access to U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands beyond the trailhead.

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