Comments needed on North Valley Trails Project by May 1
By Than Acuff
It’s go time for the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Association (CBMBA). Not only are they calling on all trail users to submit one last round of comments to the Forest Service on the North Valley Trails Project by Monday, May 1, but their Crested Butte Conservation Corps (CBCC) plans to commence their backcountry maintenance efforts on May 15 starting with clearing downed trees from trails.
“Whether we’re walking over snow to cut fallen trees or walking on dirt to cut trees, I have a feeling we’re going to be cutting some trees,” says CBMBA Executive Director Dave Ochs. “Our record is 600 trees, we average 330 trees and I bet we will be cutting somewhere between 500 and 600 trees this year.”
When the trails in the north end of the valley will open to riders depends on Mother Nature. Trail openings typically begin with the south facing Lupine system of trails, Upper Loop, Tony’s Trail and Whetstone Vista, as well as a couple of trails in the Cement Creek drainage. Given the current snowpack, trails may not be ready to go as early as last year.
“Last year we were riding by May, Deer Creek was open mid-May,” says Ochs.
As for trail work plans this summer, that all depends on what happens with the North Valley Trails Project process. That process started in 2009 when CBMBA initiated their trail master planning concept that eventually became the Riders Off the Road initiative. That plan officially entered the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) review process with the Forest Service starting in 2021.
“It was a lot of working with the community and collaborating with partners to get where we are in this plan,” says Ochs. “We held open houses, solicited comments, worked alongside conservation, research, ranching, wildlife, and other stakeholders, and we came together at STOR (Sustainable Tourism & Outdoor Recreation Committee) to propose this collaborative community plan.”
Ochs touts the comments submitted during the scoping process as well as the efforts of the Forest Service as key to developing the plan that is currently in the final step of the approval process. There are 11 trails in the plan and three-day use/parking areas with two options available on all proposed work. This final step of the process is about commenting on the plan as a whole to inform the Forest Service about the community’s thoughts as they make the final decision.
The plan includes 14.3 miles of new trail construction, 5.8 miles of trail decommissioning and day use/trailhead parking improvements throughout the north end of the valley. It includes work on trails from Doctor Park to the Cement Creek drainage, the Brush Creek drainage all the way to the Kebler Pass area as well as improvements to the Brush Creek trailhead, “the Tent City” area in Brush Creek, and the Walrod Gulch parking area.
“We’re very grateful for the Forest Service and their expedience in this process,” says Ochs. “People submitted over 245 comments during the initial scoping stages and the Forest Service listened. Let the Forest Service know you’re grateful for the process.”
The entire North Valley Trails Project is now in the final step with one last comment period open until May 1.
“It’s third and goal and we’re down by six, we got runners on first and third in the ninth inning and we’re down by two, it’s the icing on the cake,” says Ochs. “It’s the final piece. We’re through the scoping period and comments should address any issues with the process as a whole.”
The hope is that a decision will be made this summer at which point CBMBA and their CBCC can hit the ground running to start what will take five to six years to complete.
“We’re ready to go tackle it and with the approval in place, we can get to work on it,” says Ochs.
Fittingly, the decision comes on the 40th anniversary of CBMBA and a plan is in place to commemorate the auspicious occasion with a Wailers concert and work weekend at the Ambush Ranch in Brush Creek on Saturday, August 19.
“It’s going to be freaking rad,” says Ochs.
A link to the North Valley Trails Project plan and a link to comment by May 1 can be found at cbmba.org or at crestedbuttemountainbike.com.
“We at CBMBA are so grateful for the Gunnison Ranger District and the GMUG’s (Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests) continued diligence in working tirelessly to continue this process in such a timely manner,” says Ochs. “We are confident and hopeful that the next steps will ultimately produce a decision that suits the best needs of the people, the forest, and the resource itself.”
Ochs hopes this “massive first step” will lead to continued collaboration in the future encompassing a valley-wide trails plan.
“We’re excited about this,” says Ochs. “We hope in future years other comprehensive community-wide trails planning can be continued and addressed.”