Elk, deer need to be considered for proposed Crystal Valley trail

Once again the recommendations of the Crystal River Caucus appear to be at odds with those of Pitkin County staff. As stated in the Pitkin County Home Rule Charter, “a caucus shall have a recommendatory function for all planning matters affecting the caucus area.” At the request of a Pitkin County planner, the Crystal River Caucus has been gathering information regarding a land-ue application that has been making its way through Pitkin County Community Development.

The applicant owns a large acreage in the Coal Basin area above Redstone and is seeking permission for the development of an extensive bicycle trail system that will be open to the public with no seasonal closures or dog restrictions. At the most recent Crystal River Caucus meeting a representative of Colorado Parks and Wildlife and a representative from the Forest Service spoke to the expected impacts should approval of such an application be granted. Some of the unsettling concerns voiced by the CPW District Wildlife Manager and the Forest Service wildlife biologist spoke to potential ramifications for an already stressed mule deer and elk population in the area.

The private in-holding where this development is being proposed is disturbingly close to areas mapped as critical reproduction areas of both deer and elk — reproduction rates of which have been in a perilous decline in recent years. As well, due to their limited financial resources, CPW has legitimate concerns about monitoring and enforcement of protected areas on the perimeter of the site so as to prevent likely bandit trail proliferation into the forest and these critical reproduction areas.

Biking activity on the Crown has demonstrated what happens when recreation is left unchecked. At the close of this most recent Crystal River Caucus meeting a motion was overwhelmingly passed that opposed the development because of the likely threat to wildlife on surrounding public lands. This resolution went to the Board of County Commissioners. Staff is now recommending approval of the application. Commissioners will be making their determination today.

Edie Engstrom