Village Voices: Results of trail interactions survey; weigh in on proposed roundabout at Owl Creek and Brush Creek roads
This is Village Voices, the community page anchored on locals and their stories. The third week of every month, the Page 2 section will ask readers to weigh in on a relevant local issue or topic, and will publish the results of the previous poll with a short story to accompany it.
The fourth week of every month, Village Voices will highlight a village resident as part of the “Local Spotlight” series. Know someone who should be featured? Email your suggestions to email@example.com.
The flower logo you see in print was designed by Los Angeles graphic artist Ken Parkhurst for Snowmass in the late 1960’s, and a handful of his village designs will be featured as part of the community page.
On Nov. 20, the Snowmass Sun asked readers to weigh in on whether mountain bikers deter hikers from accessing Snowmass area trails through the paper’s first Village Votes survey.
On Dec. 11, the Sun closed the eight-question Page 2 survey and started analyzing the results, which showed that about 70 percent of the 177 respondents feel it is easy or very easy for all recreationists to equally access shared-use trails in Snowmass.
About 38 percent of respondents said they were full-time Snowmass residents, 23 percent said they were Snowmass visitors and about 12 percent said they were Snowmass employees who reside outside of the village.
The November survey topic was sparked by the town’s 2020 budget discussions and a joint meeting with Town Council and the Parks, Open Space, Trails and Recreation Board in the fall, which is when council members questioned whether extra enforcement was needed on village trails and how the increase in mountain biking has affected hikers.
When Mike Pritchard, executive director of the Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association, and his staff learned of the Sun survey, they encouraged members who live and ride in Snowmass to participate by sending out an email blast.
“We wanted to make sure mountain bikers participated in the survey and shared their experiences,” Pritchard said, noting that RFMBA has participated in a local “Share the Trail” campaign to encourage a positive culture for all trail users in the valley.
Pritchard also acknowledged the increase in mountain biking culture across the Roaring Fork, including Snowmass. According to the Sun’s survey data, 76 percent of respondents listed mountain biking as their trail activity of choice, 45 percent of respondents listed hiking or walking and 14 percent listed running.
Respondents were allowed to choose more than one activity, and many said they both hike and bike on Snowmass trails.
While the majority of respondents feel equal access to shared-use trails in Snowmass is easy or very easy, there was a mix of positive and negative responses related to hiker-biker interactions to the two open-ended questions of the survey.
The first open-ended question, the fifth in the survey, asked respondents who chose hiking or walking as their activity of choice to explain whether they feel there are trails that are more difficult to access due to mountain bikers.
Of the 96 people who responded to this question, about 30 respondents voiced that they avoided certain trails due to increased mountain biking activity, or felt unsafe on certain trails due to bikers.
“It is darn scary to have a bike rider hurtling towards you on the trail. The access isn’t difficult but it is no longer peaceful or safe,” one respondent wrote.
“You really need to pay attention. No more leisurely walks in the woods. They are coming fast from behind you,” another person wrote.
But the second open-ended question and sixth in the survey, which asked respondents who chose mountain biking as their activity of choice to explain whether they feel there are trails that are more difficult to access due to hikers or walkers, most all 132 people who answered the question said no.
“Sometimes there is congestion in certain areas, but all it takes is a little patience and a friendly ‘on your left’ to get through it,” one person wrote.
“I am personally very aware and ride defensively as not to spook hikers. I generally try to be excessively polite to encourage a healthy multi-use atmosphere,” another respondent said.
Overall, the Tom Blake and Sky Mountain Park area trails were noted as having the most hiker-biker interactions, whether good or bad.
Some respondents voiced the need for more directional trails, and many advocated for better trail etiquette education, which the town’s Parks, Recreation and Trails Department has worked to do through one-on-one interactions, trail signage and town Parks and Trails Manager Starr Jamison’s “Trail Talk” column in the Sun.
Both Jamison and Andy Worline, director of the town’s Parks, Recreation and Trails, said the department didn’t receive many complaints about hiker-biker interactions on the trails last summer during peak season.
They also said the department is constantly working to improve access through trail maintenance, which helps improve visibility for recreationists, and by mitigating congestion when possible through new trail routes and specified use.
“We have never heard that hikers aren’t using the trails because of bikers. We try to provide a variety of experiences for a variety of users,” Worline said of the Snowmass trail system. “We don’t have enough space to provide single-use trails on every run, so we all have to get along to use the trails.”
The town’s new Hawk Ridge Trail, which will connect the South Rim and Mountain View multi-use trails, and the Nature Trail will be opened to the public this spring, both of which Worline and Jamison feel could help relieve potential congestion.
The parks and trails staff also said the department will continue to work on educational tools and better signage for trail users.
“We will continue to work to improve our trails, but I feel like for a very small community we are really fortunate to even have single-use trails,” Jamison said.
But while the Sun survey’s “additional comments” section included requests for more user separation and directional trails, many respondents also voiced their satisfaction with the village trail system and what is has to offer for all recreationists.
“Thank you for the great trails! You continually make the paradise we live in better!” one person wrote.
“We have an amazing diversity of trails in this valley. …We have to share and we can’t all have our own trails even though Snowmass has the most user specific trails I’ve seen in a single community (especially a community of 2800 people)” another respondent said.
Now, onto the next survey.
A lot has gone on in the village since the start of December and the month’s peak holidays haven’t even hit yet.
The ski area has received hearty helpings of early season snow, the town helped celebrate Skico’s Passapalooza event, and Eye Pieces, Straight Line Studio and The Collective opened in Base Village.
The opening of these new Base Village businesses, namely The Collective, has got the Sun thinking. The new community building, which is owned by the town and managed by East West Partners, has been described over and over as aiming to be the “heart” of the village, a place where anyone and everyone can gather and connect.
Snowmass is known for its tight-knit community, but the Sun knows the holidays can be hard for some, and has heard recently up and down the valley that many people feel isolated in their hometowns and struggle to find connection.
So, we’re wondering: Where is the heart of Snowmass Village? How would you describe the village’s sense of community and where do you, as a local or visitor, go to connect with others?
With the rise in depression, anxiety and suicide rates across the country and mountain regions especially, the Sun feels it’s important to look at the village’s community health through a short, five-minute-or-less survey to help local peers and visitors better understand where they go, or can go, to find connection.
To take part in the survey, go to http://www.surveymonkey.com/r/TKBCVPV, or the Snowmass Sun Facebook page for the survey link and share your thoughts before Jan. 8. Our staff will post reminders to participate and if you’re up for it, we’d love it if you’d share the survey with your Snowmass friends and family.
Once the results are in, Snowmass Sun staff will analyze them and write a follow-up story, which will run with the next survey prompt in the Jan. 15 edition.
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