Community task force finds common ground on contentious proposal
By Bob Berwyn
*Previous Summit Voice stories on the Tenderfoot motorized trail proposal are online here.
FRISCO — Critics are likely to say it’s like putting lipstick on a pig, but the U.S. Forest Service claims its latest version of a plan for a motorized trail on Tenderfoot Mountain, near Dillon, will result in a managed, finite system of sustainable trails to replacing the existing spaghetti network of illegal trails in the area.
The agency this week released a revised environmental study for the controversial trail system, which has been hotly debated for the past several years. According to the Forest Service, the new proposed action represents numerous compromises that were made to mitigate environmental and social concerns.
As proposed, the plan would result in the construction of about 13 miles of new trail — even though many existing trails and roads on national forest lands in Summit County are in dire need of maintenance and don’t meet Forest Service standards.
A community task force, convened by Summit County and the Forest Service and facilitated by the Keystone Center, worked through some of the social and environmental issues in a series of meetings, and was able to find at least some common ground.
“The recommendations from the Task Force for changes to the proposed action represent a well thought-out compromise that considered all opinions and concerns,” Dillon District Ranger Jan Cutts said in a press release. “I am confident that the issues have been mitigated to the greatest extent possible while allowing for a legitimate use of the national forest,” she added.
The Task Force submitted recommendations and a proactive and adaptive management plan. Some of the more substantial changes to the proposed action that were made in response to these recommendations include:
- Reducing size of the Frey Gulch trailhead parking area was to about .5 acres;
- Mitigating impacts to big game rifle hunting by closing the trail system to motorized uses starting October 10;
- Reducing impacts to elk calving with targeted seasonal closures;
- Reducing noise impacts to local residents by only opening the trail system to motorized uses between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.;
- Creating “Closed Throttle Zones” close to two trailheads to reduce speeds; and,
- Limiting environmental impacts by capping recreation events (such as motorcycle, mountain bike or running races) to 50 participants with no more than two events per year.
Individuals, agencies, or organizations who commented during scoping or on the EA when it was released for comment last year, have an opportunity to file an objection if they still believe the issues they raised have not been adequately addressed.