Collaborative effort paying off, as motorized users, neighborhood residents start to find common ground; new areas considered for long-term moto use, including Forest Service land between I-70 and the Dam Road
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — After a summer showdown over motorized use on the county landfill property, community residents have started working together on a plan to manage the area and build a dirt bike track in a location where the noise and environmental impacts can be limited.
Looming is a Jan. 1 cutoff for motorized use at the landfill property, set by the county commissioners during a meeting last August.
“That’s when the commissioners said motorized use will end,” said assistant county manager Thad Noll. “Some time after that, SCORR (Summit County Off-Road Riders) can come in with a management plan, and the board will consider letting them use that property again,” he said.
Recent meetings among county officials, motorized users and residents of neighborhoods in the Snake River Basin have been productive, Noll added.
The stakeholders are also looking at a few other locations in the county to establish a motorized recreation area on a more permanent basis. One option could be to build new trails on land between I-70 and the Dam Road, with a parking area and trailhead near the fairgrounds, below Dillon Dam.
“Everybody gets it. The days of unmanaged off-road riding are over,” said Mary Patterson, who has been organizing efforts on behalf of the motorized community. During a meeting in November, the focus was on a managed riding area near Buena Vista that could serve as a model for Summit County, Patterson said.
“Everyone is hopeful there’s going to be a good solution,” she said. For starters, the group is looking at about 15 to 18 acres of land behind a knoll at the landfill property. The parcel is big enough to build a mile-long motocross track and a learning and training area served by volunteers. The trail would steer clear of a scarred patch of wetlands in the area, as well as the cemetery.
Use would be fee-based and there would be active enforcement of rules and regulations, Patterson said. A preliminary version of the plan could be ready for review at public meetings as early as mid-January, she added.
“It looks like something will be worked out,” said Summit Cove resident John Crone, participating in the process as a neighborhood representative. “SCORR is coming at this with a lot of money and planning,” Crone said, referring to the Summit County Off-Road Riders, a group that has won accolades for its stewardship efforts in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service.
It’s not an antagonistic issue anymore,” he said. For the short term, the aim is to establish a well-managed trail area at the landfill, while looking for a more permanent area in some other location, he added.
Crone said the area above the rodeo and fairgrounds, and below the dam has been discussed as a possible venue. There aren’t any homes in the area, and a national forest parcel that’s discontiguous from other national forest lands could figure into the equation.
The current collaborative approach contrasts with the contentious debates of last summer, aired in part at a county commissioner meeting and via heated letters to the newspaper. Residents of Summerwood, Summit Cove and other neighborhoods in the Snake River Basin complained about increasing motorized use on the trails around the landfill and near the cemetery. Noise was a big issue, as were conflicts between motorized and non-motorized users in the area.
Pedestrians claimed they felt threatened by unruly riders, and motorized users said they were encountering dangerous booby traps on trails that had long been open to motorized use. At one point during the summer, the county commissioners announced their intention to close the area, but they backed away from that decision in early August, after motorized users rallied in a big way at a BOCC hearing.
Sorting through the passionate statements on both sides of the issue, County Commissioner Bob French said he believed local residents were willing to work together to find a solution. Ultimately, the commissioners decided to close the area effective Jan. 1 — a moot deadline, since the area is not used by dirt bikes and ATVs during the winter.
The idea was to give people a chance to work out a compromise solution, and that approach seems to be working, as the stakeholders now feel confident they can come up with a plan that will enable some riding to continue on part of the landfill property.
“This is about having a place for locals to ride,” Patterson said.
The plan for a contained motocross track at the landfill property is distinct from a separate proposal to develop a trail-riding system on National Forest lands along Tenderfoot mountain, she added.
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Filed under: Environment, public lands, recreation, Summit County Colorado Tagged: | ATVs, Colorado, county government, dirt bikes, Environment, motocross, motorized recreation, News, public lands, summit county landfill, Summit County News