EAGLE — If you spend time on the many trails accessed through town lands, then you must be really excited about the Eagle Area Trails Master Plan.
And trail excitement was certainly in the air Wednesday at a town hall meeting devoted to the plan, where the main focus was for trail users to contribute ideas about what the plan should include.
International Mountain Biking Association representative Chris Kehmeier says brainstorming sessions like Wednesday’s meeting are his favorite part of designing a new trail system.
“You get to hear all the ideas, ‘wouldn’t it be cool to connect this trail to that trail’ type of thing from the people who know them the best, and you get to talk to people about the experiences they’ve had out on the trails,” said Kehmeier.
Kehmeier is co-authoring an official recommendation on what the plan should include, along with Town of Eagle Open Space Coordinator John Staight, who was also at Wednesday’s meeting.
In addition to the International Mountain Biking Association and the town of Eagle, spokespersons from Eagle County and the Bureau of Land Management were present, as well — a representation of just how many entities will be involved in seeing Eagle’s dream become a reality.
Hikers, hunters and horses
On the citizens’ side, the full spectrum of trail enthusiasts was represented.
The horse community was there, voicing concern over signs on non-horse trails and adequate horse trailer parking at trailheads.
Hunters were there, voicing concern over encroachment into wildlife habitats and potential user conflicts on outlaying lands during hunting season.
Hikers were there, shooting new ideas around — like better loop routes, more bathrooms at trailheads and, more specifically, new routes like a connector out of Hernage Gulch or a winter trail connecting the Arroyo Trailhead to the Hardscrabble trail.
“I think that one could be of the biggest benefit to the most people,” Eagle resident Mitch Hayne said of the winter trail idea. “It would allow hundreds of people to walk out of their houses or make a short drive up to Arroyo which is really close, and get a good, 45-minute winter hike or snowshoe, cross country ski or whatever.”
And, of course, the bikers were there, many — like Eagle Town Manager Jon Stavney and Eagle Mayor Yuri Kostick — wearing two hats.
Stavney said he’d like to see singletrack alongside Hardscrabble Road, while Kostick said he thinks some cooperation with Cordillera to get a back gate allowing for quick access to Eagle on a possible gravel road.
“It sure would make a trip to the airport quicker,” he said.
One good plan deserves another
Open house meetings like Wednesday’s four-hour informal gathering will play an important role in the upcoming finalization of the master plan recommendation, which Kostick says he expects should be finished this fall.
At that point, though, Eagle will still find itself at a distance from any action on the plan, as the town can’t begin implementing most of their ideas until the Bureau of Land Management finalizes its new Recreation Management Plan, which will determine how their lands are managed over the next 20-30 years.
Eagle has open space allowing users access to much of the existing trail system, but that will usually lead those users into Bureau of Land Management land.
“We’re encouraging the BLM to get their plan finished as soon as they can,” said Kostick.
Hurry up and wait?
Eagle’s effort to get user feedback and author their recommendation could lead to a case of hurry up and wait, but Kostick says it’s better to have Eagle’s plan solidified before the Bureau of Land Management’s.
“It’s good for them to see what the local community wants,” he said.
While a lot of specifics as to what the community wants were mentioned at Wednesday’s meeting, Bureau of Land Management representative Greg Wolfgang says he’d rather deal in generalities.
“When they’re talking about BLM land, we’d like to focus more on general concepts,” he said. “Like if someone says, ‘We want a loop right here,’ that may not happen, but if they say, ‘Let’s have more loops on BLM land,’ then maybe we could work that info into the plan ... until we get through the plan we can’t do significant things.”
The Bureau of Land Management’s plan should be finished by the end of 2013 or beginning of 2014, Wolfgang said.
Regardless, Staight says nothing on Eagle’s tablet will be set in stone.
“We’re not writing any sort of regulations, we’re not saying who can do what where, we’re not doing any of that,” Staight said.
Furthermore, added Kehmeier, “The report will be a recommendation, it will be up to the town as to whether or not they want to adopt it ... all we’re doing is listing people’s ideas.”
In the coming weeks, Eagle plans to have at least one more open house to get more of those ideas.
“And we can always have more meetings than that if we still feel the need,” Kostick said. “But so far, participation has been good.”
Staff Writer John LaConte can be reached at 970-748-2988 or firstname.lastname@example.org