Forest plan keeps area mountain bike trails open
Rumors of the closure of trails to mountain bikers in the White River National Forest’s new management plan appear to be exaggerated.
No single-track trails in the Aspen area that are now open to mountain bikes would be closed under the new forest plan. The White River Forest is seeking comments from the public on a new comprehensive management plan for the forest, and some National Forest trail users are concerned about the potential loss of access to some trails in the new plan.
“We don’t have any trails now legally open to mountain bikes that we are closing,” said Andy Steele, a recreation specialist for the Aspen Ranger District office of the U.S. Forest Service. But some trails that were forged through National Forest land without Forest Service authorization will remain closed.
“There are some trails,” Steele said, “that people have `pirated in.’ Those aren’t legal now, and that’s not going to change. That’s not a forest plan issue.
Other than the Government Trail, from Buttermilk to Snowmass Village, most of the local single-track trails used by bicyclists are concentrated in the Hunter Creek area.
“We don’t have a lot of land available [for mountain bike use] because of the topography,” Steele said, “but the whole Hunter Creek area is maintained for the single-track mountain bike experience.”
“We looked at all those trails – Hobbit, Dark Side, The Plunge,” Steele said. “There’s no loss of riding there on established trails.”
Steel said the Hobbit Trail doesn’t have a number in the Forest Service trail inventory right now, but the agency is maintaining the trail and intends to add it to the trail system.
Much of the trail system is maintained by volunteers from such groups as Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers and the Aspen Cycling Club, Steele said. He said their work is important, because the Forest Service doesn’t have the funding to do much of the maintenance that is needed.
White River officials held an open house at the Inn at Aspen Thursday, to educate the public on the contents of the revised forest plan and to receive public comment on it. The meeting was one of a series to be held throughout the area.
Steele said many different user groups were represented at the open house. Off-road motorcycle users at the meeting were also concerned about the loss of access to single-track trails, Steele said, but much of the motorcycling being done on Smuggler Mountain is on trails that are already closed.
“They wanted to know why those trails are being closed, and I had to say they’ve been closed for 15 years,” Steele said. He said the closure signs have been torn down repeatedly.
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