New mountain biking trails opening to public in Coal Basin near Redstone
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
A network of new mountain biking trails that has recently been constructed on the former Mid-Continent coal mine site in Coal Basin near Redstone open to the public this weekend.
The Coal Basin Ranch is a roughly 5-mile system of singletrack trails situated on privately owned land that will be open for public use starting Saturday.
It’s part of an effort to demonstrate that trails can be an important part of land restoration, Ranch and Trail Manager Trina Ortega said of this weekend’s “soft” opening.
“We’re calling it a soft opening because we don’t have permanent signage yet, and we are continuing with some of the trailbuilding and restoration efforts,” Ortega said.
The trail system will be open to the public, free of charge, between 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily during this first summer season.
The private property where the trails are located was once the processing center for the Coal Basin coal mining operation until the mines closed in the early 1990s.
Five separate mines once operated on the site, from 1956 to 1991, producing 23 tons of medium-grade coal mostly used for U.S. steel mills. Coal was mined at Coal Basin, trucked to a loadout facility east of Carbondale and transported by train out of the Roaring Fork Valley.
Mid-Continent shut down mining operations in 1991 amid mounting financial difficulties and a devastating underground fire that had to be put out by flooding the mines.
The land is now held by Crystal Basin Holdings LLC, which is owned by heirs of the Walton family estate of Walmart retailers fame.
The site has now been redeveloped as what Ortega described as “a community asset for advancing healthy landscapes and healthy lifestyles.”
The trail system features cross country singletrack along a mountain creek through Douglas fir and spruce and a flow trail descent through an aspen forest. The trails boast several jump lines, pump tracks and even a Strider track for the youngest riders.
The former coal mine site has undergone several decades worth of reclamation. Trails are part of that restoration, Ortega said.
“We hope people will enjoy the trail and reflect on the area’s history,” Ortega said in the release. “Not long ago, it was a heavily impacted industrial site. We are partnering with the community to transform the land and to provide a place where individuals can recreate and experience the landscape, ultimately discovering how they, too, fit into this area’s unique story.”
Trails will also be open to local schools that want to combine mountain biking and outdoor education programs, where students can get active while also learning about restoration, sustainably built trails, stewardship and conservation, she said.
Access to the trails is possible through an easement arranged between the private owners and Pitkin County.
Gary Tennenbaum, director of Pitkin County Open Space & Trails, said Coal Basin Ranch is the first of its kind in the county and called it a model for other landowners who may be willing to provide public trails on their property.
“A private landowner building and maintaining trails on their property that are open to the public is unique and we feel needs public support,” he said.
Pitkin County will provide enforcement assistance to ensure trail users are following ranch rules.
“The Crystal Valley is one of the most beautiful valleys in all of Colorado and has been found by the public,” Tannenbaum noted. “Well-managed recreation can help with the tourist economy while protecting the vast array of natural resources that makes the Crystal Valley so special.”
The optimized trail system is the first to be developed in the Crystal River Valley, added Roaring Fork Mountain Bicycling Association Executive Director Mike Pritchard.
“The trails will be welcoming to riders and families with kids of all ages, offering high-quality fun while building up each rider’s skills,” Pritchard said in the release. “Exploring the ranch’s trail system offers a unique opportunity to appreciate the area’s industrial past and consider the ongoing rehabilitation efforts to improve the ecological health of the area, all the while enjoying being in the moment, surrounded by the magnificent forest and mountainous horizon of Coal Basin.”
Free access is also unique, Ortega said.
“Some private mountain bike parks and ranches exist but operate on fee-based systems, while Coal Basin Ranch will be free to the public,” she said. “We hope the community can continue to enjoy these trails and this land for years to come, by staying on trails, employing positive trail ethics and etiquette and being good land stewards.”
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