As trails open in Eagle, police chief says locals-only policy must be respected
As trail use increases, hikers and bikers are asked to observe restrictions brought on by COVID-19
EAGLE COUNTY — While some downvalley trails are set to open on Wednesday, and other trails in the middle of the valley are expected to open soon, trail users are being asked to observe restrictions both old and new this year.
New restrictions include a locals-only policy, where use of Eagle County public lands, and the trails they contain, is restricted to Eagle County residents during the COVID-19 outbreak. This will remain in effect throughout April.
Old restrictions include the long-observed policy of “muddy trails are closed trails,” and if elk are still in the area, trail closures will also be observed. As trails are still muddy in Avon, the West Avon Preserve, which saw snow this week, will remain closed for now.
Social distancing guidelines are also being enforced. Eagle Police Chief Joey Staufer said the department had to close the Haymaker trailhead parking area, the Eagle Pool & Ice facility lot, and the BMX track and pump track because social distancing guidelines were not being observed by users of those amenities.
“We had multiple complaints very early in the social distancing provisions,” Staufer said. “That is what resulted in the directive to close down those areas that are more prominent for social gathering, where those complaints were coming in, and once those parking lots and playgrounds and other gathering areas were closed down with caution tape and signs put up, we didn’t have any additional areas of concern.”
Police: Exercise is important
Staufer said exercise is of top importance in Eagle County, so if there’s one thing he’s asking people to abide, it’s the locals-only policy.
“We need to give our town some time to recover and our residents some time to recover,” Staufer said. “And it’s been difficult for our community and communities around us — We need to get out, we need to exercise.”
As of Wednesday, mountain bikers will be able to ride the Boneyard and Redneck Ridge trails, as well as the First Two Loops of Haymaker in Eagle. While the Varsity Loop trail will be open in Eagle, the Extra Credit loop will remain closed temporarily due to continued elk presence. Residents are asked to ride from their houses if possible as most parking lots in the area are closed.
For hikers, the Mesquite Trail in Edwards is now open. Local resident and longtime trail advocate Lee Rimel said the trail is in good shape.
“It’s extremely dry, south-facing,” Rimel said.
But the Mesquite Trailhead is temporarily closed, however, so locals will need to use the Charolais Circle trailhead instead.
Lots of use
The Berry Creek trail in Edwards is also dry, but Forest Service regulations call for the Berry Creek trail to be used for hiking only until May 21. Ernest Saeger with the Vail Valley Trails Alliance said not a lot of people were aware of that regulation.
“There has probably been 3,000 people who have ridden their bikes on Berry Creek already this year,” Saeger said.
Michelle Wolffe said while local efforts to enforce trail regulations like the Trail Ambassador Program are on hold for the time being, she is still seeking volunteers to help in those efforts as she knows they will be needed again soon.
“I do know of some amazing abuse on all the trails,” Wolffe said. “Forty cars parked at a 10-car parking lot for these trailheads, it’s a little worrisome.”
Eagle Open Space Coordinator John Staight said he suspects the trails are seeing increased use as a result of the increased free time in people’s schedules.
“Before we closed down the pump track and the BMX track, I was seeing way more people than I’ve ever seen out there,” he said.
In the upper valley, many trails are still covered in snow, some of which are snowshoe accessible. The North Trail in Vail is closed through June 20, along with Whiskey Creek and the Everkrisp trails in Eagle-Vail. Visit vvmta.org/trail-closures/ for more information.