Draft management plans says no new trails but adjusted winter closure at midvalley Glassier property

No new trails are slated to be added at the midvalley Glassier Open Space, but the winter closure of the popular hiking and biking route could be shortened to align with the Rio Grande Trail dates, according to a proposed management plan.

Pitkin County Open Space and Trails is working on an update to the management plan of the diverse property that was purchased in 2013-14. The 282-acre Glassier parcel on Hook’s Spur Road near Basalt provides a little bit of everything — recreation trails, agriculture uses, wildlife habitat and wide open spaces. Separate trails are provided for mountain biking and equestrians. Hikers and trail runners are free to use either route. Both trails lead to a broader trail network on the Crown, land held by the Bureau of Land Management.

The open space program held an online survey earlier this year to collect opinions on what people like about the property, what they want changed and what they want preserved. They received 272 responses.

“A theme among responses was the concern about the overuse of the area and congestion on the trails, and the potential impacts on wildlife as well as safety/quality of the trail user experience,” the draft management plan said. “In responding to a question about what people would change regarding trails, there was interest — primarily from mountain bike respondents — in more trail development and/or redesignation to facilitate directional trails. There was, however, also support both from mountain bikers and other users to preserve the existing two-way trail network with separated uses as currently designed.”

The Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association, a powerful advocacy group in the valley, lobbied for opening of the equestrian-foot traffic trail to uphill mountain bike traffic. If that isn’t possible, the association said, an additional route should be built to allow separate, directional travel for bikers.

The biker-hiker trail had 13,340 users in 2019. The equestrian-foot traffic trail had 448 users last year.

Open space staffers proposed sticking with the status quo. They reasoned that the design of the existing trails used existing vegetation to screen the routes and minimize visual impacts. There is little additional space for another trail that would be screened and still sustain native vegetation, the draft plan said.

“Improvements to recreation over the next five-year period focus on minor tweaks to the current trail system, the addition of an anticipated foot and horse trail connection and better alignment of the seasonal closures with the BLM,” the draft plan said.

No new biking trail will be added and no one-way travel will be proposed.

The open space program will explore creating a connection from the existing Glassier equestrian-foot traffic path to Nancy’s Path, an existing route for non-mechanized users a short distance east of Glassier. Construction is being eyed for 2022. The connector would be closed to bikes and dogs, as Nancy’s Path is.

The open space staff also recommended retaining the winter closure for the benefit of wildlife, but tweaking it. Currently, there are three closure dates affecting lands in the area. The Rio Grande Trail is closed in the Rock Bottom Ranch section from Dec. 1 through April 30. The Crown lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management are closed to mechanized uses Dec. 1 through April 15. Glassier is currently closed Dec. 1 through May 15. The jumble of different dates confuses some outdoor enthusiasts.

“The goal is for the Glassier closure dates to more closely align with those established by adjacent land managers to minimize confusion, while still accommodating the needs of wintering wildlife and align with the opening dates of the Rio Grande Trail,” the draft plan said. “The new seasonal closure will be in effect from Dec. 1st to April 30th to protect wintering wildlife. OST will work with the guidance provided by CPW to postpone the opening date, if warranted based on the seasonal conditions.”

The draft management plan covers numerous topics. Among other major issues is potential renovation of the old Glassier farmhouse and rehabilitation of some of the surrounding buildings.

At an open space board of directors’ meeting on Thursday, member Michael Kinsley said restoration of an old barn is a high priority for him.

“It’s too gorgeous to lose,” he said.

The staff will explore options and funding for the restoration. Providing housing for a caretaker for the homestead property is a top goal.

The open space program will post the draft management plan on its website and hold a public comment period from Oct. 5 to Nov. 6. Comments will be considered before a final plan is prepared and reviewed by the open space board. Although Pitkin County Open Space and Trails owns the property, the Glassier property is located in Eagle County. Therefore, the management plan will be presented to the Eagle County commissioners for review.