Midvalley residents step up efforts to reopen bike trails | AspenTimes.com

Midvalley residents step up efforts to reopen bike trails

Midvalley residents plan to step up efforts tonight to get the Colorado Division of Wildlife to reconsider its closure of the Christine State Wildlife Area to mountain bikes.

Nearly 90 people signed a petition which states, “We, the undersigned, object to the closure of the Basalt Mountain Road above Lake Christine to mountain biking.”

The petition will be presented to a DOW representative during a work session with the Basalt Town Council. That meeting is scheduled to be held at 6:15 p.m. at Basalt Town Hall.

The wildlife division abruptly closed the road and trails in the wildlife area last spring. Officials claimed that bikers were creating new trails and disturbing wildlife by fragmenting habitat.

The decision was criticized by former councilman and respected environmentalist Chris Lane. He said seasonal closures, such as during elk calving or migration time, would be justified, but challenged whether the science existed to close the road and trails through the summer.

Other Basalt residents were angry at the decision because it closes some of the best riding in the midvalley.

“This road is Basalt’s Smuggler Mountain Road, where people should be able to go on their bikes to get a quick lunch-hour or early-evening workout,” wrote Ed Simonson of Basalt, one of the petition circulators. “It has been open to mountain bikers for years and should not be closed.”

The petition was signed by people from Aspen, El Jebel and Carbondale as well as Basalt.

Many of the signatures included comments protesting the closure of public lands. “Closure was an overreaction,” wrote Mike Schwartz of Carbondale.

The wildlife division contends that its only obligation is to manage the land for the benefit of wildlife. Unlike the U.S. Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management, it isn’t a multi-use agency.

Along with banning bikes on the popular trails, the DOW prohibited dogs in the wildlife area. Wildlife officers claimed many dog owners ignored the requirement to keep dogs on leashes.

Hiking, without dogs and during summer months, is one of the few allowed human uses, as is hunting in the fall.

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