Forest Service eyes permits for Vail Pass bike haulers

Agency considers expansion of downhill bike activity

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More downhill biking eyed at Vail Pass, Colorado.

Staff Report

In the age of instant gratification, it’s probably not surprising that coasting downhill on a mountain bike has become a popular pastime in Summit County. As a result, the U.S. Forest Service is preparing to authorize several ten-year special use permits to different individuals and organizations to serve up to a total of 20,000 downhill cyclists during the summer season.

Up to now, the shuttle service has been authorized under temporary permits serving up to 16,000 people, served by as many as 12 different local businesses, all hauling tourists to the top of Vail Pass so they can zoom back down on the bike path.

As the Forest Service announced in a call for public comments, there are even more businesses that would like to sell the same service; therefore, the agency is issuing a prospectus followed by an evaluation of proposals to determine how the available permits will be allocated. Based on criteria determined by the Forest Service, the most qualified applicants will be selected. Here’s how the agency describes the process:

“The objective in permitting this activity on National Forest System lands is to answer a clear public need for bicycle drop-off opportunities at Vail Pass, to provide for the health and safety of bike path users by regulating the activity, to protect the natural resources through permit requirements, to support the economy of local communities, and to provide a quality recreation experience for the public.”

Once the Forest Service has chosen qualified applicants, it will conduct an environmental analysis. The public will be invited to comment on the proposal to authorize this service.

“No environmental issues are anticipated since the proposed use occurs on paved surfaces,” said Ken Waugh, Dillon Ranger District Recreation Staff Officer. “There may be some safety issues that we hope to address through special use permit requirements,” he added.  The existing twelve businesses will continue to provide this service during the summer of 2016, authorized under temporary, one-year permits.

To obtain a copy of the prospectus and application submittal procedures, please visit the White River National Forest website at http://www.fs.usda.gov/whiteriver and navigate to Passes and Permits / Event and Commercial Permits / Outfitters and Guides / Vail Pass Bicycle Delivery Prospectus.

Applications must be postmarked or received no later than 4:30 p.m., Mountain Time, on Friday, April 1, 2016.   For additional information, please contact Ken Waugh at 970-262-3446 or kwaugh@fs.fed.us.

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