Safety measures taken on new Red Mountain trails in Glenwood | AspenTimes.com

Safety measures taken on new Red Mountain trails in Glenwood

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs Post Independent

A mountain biker heads down the new Grandstaff Trail on Red Mountain on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Concerns have been raised about the mix of bikers and hikers on the criss-crossing trails that now exist in the mountain park area on the west flank of Glenwood Springs.

Several steps are being taken to improve safety between trail users on Glenwood's Red Mountain after complaints that the newly completed Grandstaff Trail may not be all that friendly to the multi-use concept for a park that's rapidly growing in popularity.

Mike Pritchard, executive director for the Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association, which worked with the city to spearhead the new trail project over the summer, said that preventing conflicts between users is a chief objective.

Signs were recently installed listing the various trail names and advising users of some basic rules, including yielding to uphill traffic; showing courtesy to hikers, runners and dog walkers by slowing down; and being extra careful at trail intersections.

"We're also working on some small 'You are here' signs so that people know where they are and how to get to a certain trail," Pritchard said.

In addition, Lower Grandstaff is now designated for downhill traffic only, he said.

The winding, roughly half-mile final descent is near the city water plant where the Red Mountain ski hill was located decades ago. It provides a thrilling close to the ride for mountain bikers with banked turns and built-in jumps.

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"The area remains open to all uses with few restrictions, other than the directional restriction on that lower part," Pritchard said.

Pets also are required to be on leash on the Grandstaff Trail. That's not the case with the Cross and Fall Line trails, he pointed out.

All of that is subject to change, though, as use patterns are monitored and the group continues to work with the city to employ what's called adaptive management, he said. Four cameras are to be installed at different locations along the trails to monitor user patterns and to get a better sense of the mix of users and numbers.

That could lead to future trail management changes after a full summer season, Pritchard said.

Gerry VanderBeek, a regular trail user and occasional maintenance volunteer with the 100 Club, recently approached Glenwood Springs City Council and wrote a letter to the editor lamenting the changes that were allowed to proliferate on Red Mountain.

He asked council to preserve the Red Mountain area as a park for multiple use, "and get away from its evolution as an amusement park."

While doing volunteer work last month on the old Jeanne Golay trail, a steep fall-line route that has been popular with a variety of users for several years, VanderBeek said he was surprised to see what he described as "deep, twisting scars" from the newly cut Grandstaff Trail. He also expressed concerns about blind corners and trail intersections that could result in collisions if not properly managed.

"The Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association has a mission to build thrilling, downhill biking trails," VanderBeek said. "You don't want to be walking, running or dog walking on these trails."

Now that the trail is complete, he suggested the city hold the group responsible for "rigorous yearly maintenance," and to make adjustments as needed. He also suggested a spring "mud season" closure of the area for all users to prevent damage and erosion.

Another recent letter writer, Renee Miller, suggested the city designate the older trail sections for foot traffic only, and leaving the new trail strictly for mountain bikers.

That would be up to the city, Pritchard said, but may be difficult to enforce. For now, he said it appears that most mountain bikers are choosing to ride up the main road to different access points along the new Grandstaff Trail, and descending from there. Hikers, on the other hand, seem to prefer the more established Fall Line and Cross trail routes.

He added that care was taken to thin out vegetation on corners to improve visibility. Grass seed is also being spread above and below the tread of the new trails in an effort to revegetate the areas that were disturbed by the trail construction.

"We hope this first phase of trail improvements will be successful, and we'll just have to see what future changes may be needed," he said.

In the meantime, the new trail has already become a popular destination for mountain bikers from the Roaring Fork Valley and from outside the area, with good reviews, Pritchard said.

Glenwood Mayor Michael Gamba said the new trail is not anything different from what the city was anticipating when the project was being planned.

"I understand the hikers' concerns there, but I also understand the benefit this has been to the mountain biking community," Gamba said. "I'm not an avid mountain biker myself, but I have ridden the trail twice now, and it's the best mountain bike trail I think I've ever ridden on.

"I do think the signage and limiting the directional traffic on certain portions of the trail are going to help," the mayor added. "We'll just have to play it by ear and do our best to address what we can and provide the best experience for the most people."

With the new Red Mountain trail complete, the Mountain Bike Association will turn its attention next year to beginning construction on what will eventually be an 8-mile network of trails in South Canyon above the city's landfill.

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