Pitkin County seeks approval of Redstone to McClure Pass trail from Forest Service
The U.S. Forest Service plans to begin review of a key segment of the Carbondale to Crested Butte Trail early next year.
Pitkin County Open Space and Trails submitted a plan to the White River National Forest for a 7-mile stretch of the trail from the town of Redstone to the summit of McClure Pass. About 5 miles of that section is on national forestland so it must go through review under the National Environmental Policy Act.
“The proposed trail would likely benefit some residents and businesses, but the public process has also demonstrated that some community members do not support the completion of any trail segment in this area,” the county’s application said.
The county is footing the bill for analysis by an independent third party. The Forest Service anticipates the project to go to public scoping in late January or early February, according to Shelly Grail, recreation manager in the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District. Scoping typically includes open houses and an opportunity for the public to submit official comments to the agency.
Pitkin County’s application said the trail segment from Redstone to the pass would be natural surfaced, non-motorized and multi-use. The county commissioners approved the broader trail plan after extensive public debate in December 2018. The Redstone to McClure Pass segment was identified as a high priority in a phased project that will take years to complete.
“While the Redstone to McClure Pass Trail is a key part of the regional Carbondale to Crested Butte trail corridor, it also serves as a high-priority, stand-alone project that meets current needs for recreational access, safe trail connections and sustainable resource management,” the application said.
The 2-mile stretch closest to Redstone would be constructed along the west shoulder of Highway 133. That segment is within the Colorado Department of Transportation right-of-way, so it would be reviewed by the state agency rather than the forest service.
“Where the trail approaches a tall cliff along a curve in the highway, the trail could be constructed on a raised structure (retaining wall and elevated platform with a pedestrian railing) to provide separation from vehicular traffic,” the application said.
The 5-mile segment starting near Hays Creek Falls would be primarily on national forestland, with short bursts along the shoulder of the highway. Most of that route follows an historic wagon road around Bear Creek and the Old McClure Pass road.
The county aims to use three existing parking areas and build two new ones to serve the trail. The existing parking areas are Elk Park in Redstone, Redstone East Creek north of town and the summit of McClure Pass.
The two proposed parking areas are near Bear Creek-Placita boundary and near the base of the pass.
The application identified potential issues of concern as wildlife, vegetation, cultural resources, visual effects, recreation resources and community outlook.
The Forest Service will alert the public when opportunities arise for comment.
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