Eagle County mountain bike group joins Hidden Gems fray
November 7, 2009
EAGLE, Colo. – Snowmobilers aren’t the only ones upset about Hidden Gems.
An Eagle County mountain biking group has entered into the fray.
Eagle resident Larry Grossman, a founder of the Hardscrabble Singletrack Coalition, has been advocating against the wilderness proposal on Facebook.
He’s trying to convince members of his group to write letters opposing Hidden Gems to their elected officials.
“I think my top concern with Hidden Gems is the precedent it is setting, that there is a group of people out there with their own agendas, who are trying to close off 400,000 acres of public land in Colorado,” Grossman said. “One of the reasons I live here is to use to use public land, and as a taxpayer, I feel it’s my right to use those lands and I use them respectfully.”
The proposal would designate as wilderness 400,000 acres of land in a four-county region that includes the Vail area and lands in the Roaring Fork Valley. Neither motorized nor mechanized uses – such as mountain biking – would be allowed on those lands if Hidden Gems passes. Grossman said he’s particularly concerned about an 18-mile stretch of mountain biking terrain in the Red Hill area outside of Gypsum.
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Grossman recently fired off letters to Eagle County Commissioner Jon Stavney and local Congressman Jared Polis, voicing his gripes over the wilderness plan.
“I would like to see Hidden Gems go away,” Grossman said.
His group might not be huge – about 130 people are part of the Hardscrabble Singletrack Coalition group on Facebook. Nor did they form specifically to butt heads with Hidden Gems. Grossman, 52, said the coalition formed to advocate for more signs on mountain bike trails in the Hardscrabble area. However, the group’s public outcry against Hidden Gems is symbolic of a decided turn the wilderness debate has taken.
Although proponents of Hidden Gems say they are trying to protect wilderness for future generations and shield it from oil and gas exploration, opponents continue to frame the debate in terms of the impact on motorized and mechanized recreation.
A few hundred foes of Hidden Gems, some of them snowmobilers, packed a meeting on the topic last week at the Eagle County Administration Building. Backers of the wilderness expansion have been soliciting support from local governments, even though the decision rests in Washington, D.C.
With opposition mounting, Hidden Gems backers are trying to steer the debate back to the benefits of conservation.
“We’re not trying to pit one form of recreation against another,” said Sloan Shoemaker, a spokesman for Wilderness Workshop, a Carbondale-based group that is among the organizers of the Hidden Gems push. “It’s that the Wilderness Act has a higher calling about ecological integrity and wild places between the roads on the map and keeping them that way.”
Shoemaker said he isn’t sure which area around Red Hill to which Grossman was referring. He suspects it was a description of Red Table Mountain, a swath he said would be closed to mountain biking anyway under a proposed Forest Service travel management plan.
“We’ve never heard of the Hardscrabble Singletrack Coalition and we welcome them to come talk to us about specific trails or routes they would like to not see within the wilderness, and we can look at that,” Shoemaker said. “We have a track record of negotiating in good faith on particular trails and routes across the proposal in ways that reduce conflicts.”