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Colorado: Forest Service trails plan draws fire from county

County commissioners see inconsistencies in plan, express concerns about impacts to county services and the environment

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A proposal to increase motorized use on Tenderfoot Mountain is generating controversy in Summit County. Bob Berwyn photo.

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By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The Summit County Commissioners still have serious concerns about a scaled-back proposal for motorized recreation on Tenderfoot Mountain, including the overall size of the proposal and the projected increase in motorized users.

The county is also at odds with the rationale that past illegal use of the area by dirt bikes is a justification for creation of a legal trail system. The concerns are outlined in a planning staff memo, prepared for the Dec. 4 county commissioner work session.

The planners wrote: “Years of illegal motorized activity should not make it acceptable to allow such activity to continue, nor justify this as an appropriate location.  A long history of off-trail riding and the creation of 29 miles of illegal trails call into question the feasibility of preventing future perpetuation of this illegal activity …”

“There’s still a lot of inconsistencies in there,” said Summit County manager Gary Martinez after a Tuesday morning work session aimed at developing the county’s formal comments on the recently released study for the motorized trail plan.

Martinez said that, the way the county reads the plan, it could result in a Safeway-sized parking lot being developed, leading to much more motorized use than the Forest Service acknowledges.

The concern is that the trail system will become a regional draw, potentially impacting county services. Given the amount of existing trails available for motorized use, the county estimates that the project would increase the total mileage of motorized single track trails within the entire White River National Forest by more than 50 percent in one location within our community.

The staff memo points out that parts of the Forest Service acknowledge that regional draw and increased visitation and riders are projected, while other sections indicate that there will be no substantial increase in riders beyond those already utilizing the area.

“Thus, a general comment is that it seems difficult to accurately analyze the potential impacts of the proposed trail system if the EA doesn’t consistently disclose what the intended usage will be,” county planners wrote.

One of the big overriding concerns is that the Forest Service plan is at odds with local zoning, which designates the area as generally non-motorized, with exceptions on a few roads for hunting and camping access.

That seemingly puts the Dillon Ranger District at odds with the White River Forest plan, which calls on the agency to “Cooperatively work with local governments to address issues of common concern and to the extent possible maintain consistency with locally adopted master plans.”

For now, the county’s concerns are outlined in a planning staff memo that lists a slew of issues, many of which haven’t changed since the county offered comments during the early scoping phase of the process. The Tenderfoot proposal will also be discussed at a special Dec. 6 Snake River Planning Commission meeting (5 p.m. at Dillon Town Hall). The BOCC will finalize its comments at its meeting next week.

The Forest Service will hold an open house on the plan at the Dillon Ranger Station from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on December 5, 2012.

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