BLM’s proposed tweaks to the Crown rec area will add trails for biking, horsing around in midvalley
BLM closures extended
The winter closure on many trails on the Crown will be extended this year because of snowy conditions and the needs of wildlife, the Bureau of Land Management announced Thursday.
“Trails on the Crown that typically open April 15 will remain closed to biking and motorized uses until May 1,” the BLM announced in a statement released by Pitkin County Open Space and Trails. The organizations are land management partners.
“The delayed opening applies to the Crown and Prince Creek trails above the South Porcupine Trail,” the statement said. “Given the high snowpack, the delay will give deer and elk more time to move to higher elevations.”
Access to the Crown from the Glassier Open Space will remain closed until its typical time on May 16.
The BLM also announced that the closures will be extended on Light Hill and Williams Hill in the Roaring Fork Valley, at the request of Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
“As the snow melts from these lower elevation areas, the vegetation is greening-up and providing key forage for winter-weakened deer and elk,” said Matt Yamashita, Acting Area Manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “The higher elevation transitional areas the deer and elk could migrate to are still inaccessible because of several feet of snow and significant crusting.”
The Bureau of Land Management is tweaking a travel plan for the Crown Special Recreation Management Area in the midvalley to add trails for mountain biking and equestrians, as well as decommission some old routes currently open to mechanized travel.
The agency’s proposed action would:
• Create 11.85 miles of designated new mountain bike single-track trail.
• Convert 10 miles of designated mountain bike trail, all of which is double-track, to foot and horse trail. The new equestrian and hiking trail would provide connection between Pitkin County’s Glassier Open Space, where there is existing equestrian trail, to Nancy’s Path and south to the Divide parking area, at a high point on Prince Creek Road.
• Decommission 19.21 miles of designated mountain bike trail, most of which is double-track. Some of the routes would be rehabilitated. Many of those routes are dead-ends or duplicative routes.
• Remove the mountain bike trail designation for 14.7 miles and change it to administrative use only to accommodate permitted grazing activities.
David Boyd, spokesman for the BLM’s Colorado River Valley Field Office, said the agency’s environmental assessment will soon be completed and a decision is expected in April.
The proposal said trail construction will begin in 2019 and “could continue for several years as funding and volunteer labor become available.”
The proposal has the endorsement of the Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association. Executive Director Mike Pritchard said the BLM action will add a 6-mile section called the Vasten Trail that can be used by riders on the existing Glassier-Buckhorn Traverse route.
“It will expand the opportunity to ride on the north and east sides of the Crown from the El Jebel side,” Pritchard said.
The existing Glassier-Buckhorn trail typically takes riders 45 to 60 minutes to complete, starting and finishing on the Rio Grande Trail. The Vasten Trail will add another 45 minutes or so. Riders will climb to a high point at the top of the Glassier Trail and take a long descent to the Buckhorn Traverse, or the direction of travel could be reversed.
“It will continue to spread people out,” Pritchard said.
The Vasten Trail, named after homesteaders in the area, will cross three counties — Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin.
Funding is coming from several sources. The Mid Valley Trails Committee, a division of Eagle County, pledged a contribution. Garfield County has committed one week of labor from the Rocky Mountain Youth Corp., which the county hires for work each summer. Private foundations, the mountain bike association and other governmental entities are also covering the cost of the trail.
Mid Valley Trails Committee chair Temple Glassier told Eagle County commissioners at a recent meeting that the cost of the Vasten Trail is between $110,000 and $120,000.
Pritchard said it is possible the work could be completed by the end of July.
Another trail 5-plus miles long, called Undie, will connect between the existing Innie trail and the high point of the Crown, Pritchard said. That will add options on the southern side of the trail network, accessed most easily from Prince Creek Road. Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association plans to hold Thursday evening work sessions this summer to undertake that trail. More details will emerge as work dates get closer.
Details on the BLM’s proposed adjustment to the Crown travel plan can be found at https://bit.ly/2KrTHpq.
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