July 12, 2010
Editor’s note: The following letter was sent to Rep. Jared Polis.
Mr. Polis, I want to thank you for taking the time needed to resolve issues surrounding the Hidden Gems Wilderness campaign. Doing it right is far more important than doing it fast.
Recent articles in the press indicate that proponents would like to see this plan rushed, as they see a favorable Congress, instead of doing it correctly. This action should speak volumes. I have taken issue with the tactics of the Hidden Gems camp. Weekly group hikes are being led by this group into proposed areas. If this plan is meant to limit mankind’s impact, it’s hard to tell by their actions. Group hikes will only cause further damage and degradation of our natural resources.
On Sunday, July 11, in Breckenridge, the Hidden Gems camp led a group to the Mohawk Lakes trail. This area is already non-motorized and cyclists do not use the trail because of it’s rugged topography. These facts alone beg the question, why make it Wilderness? However, the trail is in a serious state of disrepair. Switchbacks have been cut, tread has been braided, and this damage can only be attributed to foot traffic.
If the Hidden Gems camp seriously wanted to get folks involved, contacting the Friends of the Dillon Ranger District to set up a trail maintenance project should have been their first course of action. Giving back in a tangible way, with sweat equity, makes more of a statement than leading a large group into a sensitive area.
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It should be known, if the Wilderness plan passes, that groups of 25 or more would be forbidden from accessing these areas. The Wilderness Act dictates that only groups of 25 heartbeats (25 people; 10 people, 10 horses, 5 dogs; etc.) or less, can access Wilderness areas. Do the Hidden Gems folks intend to bring more than 25 folks to Mohawk Lakes today? If so, it is in direct conflict with their plan.
Am I the only one seeing this duplicity? I must state that I am in no way against protection of our natural resources. As an avid mountain biker, I want to see these areas protected. Wilderness designation is not the only way to do this. Companion designations should be used, and not just in Summit County.
I have read that Mr. Shoemaker, of Wilderness Workshop, refuses to acknowledge the validity of the companion designations in Eagle, Pitkin, and Garfield counties. Why? It seems it will work in Summit County, why not in adjacent communities as well? Mr. Polis, I have personally donated hours of my time repairing and maintaining some of my favorite trails in the area. Working on these projects with the Friends of the Dillon Ranger District, the Summit Mountain Bikers, and the Summit Fat Tire Society has brought me tremendous satisfaction. I have recently worked alongside caring individuals, volunteering their time and energy to repair and maintain routes that we utilize.
I strongly recommend Hidden Gems should do the same. If their plan really is about resource protection they should have by now volunteered some effort and given back. Instead, they’d rather put limits on responsible recreation and cause further degradation by leading large hiking groups. Please, Mr. Polis, I urge you to continue to take your time, build consensus (it’s out there!), demand companion designations, and demand that Hidden Gems be honest with the public.