Under a new trail plan now slated for a March release, The Forest Service would no longer designate trails as "closed" to motorized use. Instead, trails will be presumed closed unless specifically marked as open. PHOTO BY BOB BERWYN.
New rules will spell big changes for trail users on national forest lands in Summit County
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — Trail users in the high country could see some big changes this summer when the U.S. Forest Service finally unveils its long-awaited travel management plan for the White River National Forest.
Currently, the release date is set for March 2010, but don’t hold your breath, said forest spokesman Pat Thrasher.
“That’s still a soft date,” Thrasher said, acknowledging that there could be additional delays to finalizing a plan that has been in the pipeline for seven years. Among other factors, the White River forest recently lost a mapping specialist who was working on the maps for the new plan. The agency hopes to replace the staffer in time to complete the needed work, but there are no guarantees.
Release of the decision will be followed by a 45-day appeal period. If all goes well, the agency could be changing signs and handing out maps based on the new plan this coming summer.
The trails plan covers about 350 miles of routes in Summit County, including hiking paths, mountain bike trails, motorized routes and national forest roads. Under a draft version of the plan, the agency could add a couple of hundred more miles of authorized trails, though that’s not a for-sure thing until the final decision is released.
Trail management has been in a bureaucratic limbo the past few years, as various user groups wait for the agency to complete the process. Initially, the White River forest had planned to release the travel management plan as part of its overall land-use plan — the guiding document for allocating uses on national forest lands.
The forest plan was finalized in 2002, but top rangers with the agency decided to separate travel planning from land use. Since then, there have been numerous false starts and delays.
Thrasher said the lengthy planning process can be attributed in large part to the need to balance competing interests. (more…)
Filed under: Environment, public lands, recreation, Summit County Colorado | Tagged: Colorado, Forest Service, national forests, Summit County News, trails, White River National Forest | 5 Comments »