Avon denies plan for Upper Metcalf trails
AVON — Plans to develop trails in the Upper Metcalf area won’t be realized while this council is in session.
Upholding the recommendation of the Avon Planning Commission, the Avon Town Council voted 5-2 Tuesday in favor of an option presented by town staff in which some trails could see construction above Buffalo Ridge and in East Avon, but none in the Upper Metcalf drainage area near the Wildridge, Wildwood and Mountain Star neighborhoods.
Under the recommendation, a bike practicing area known as a pump track could also come to Nottingham Park upon completion of the incipient Nottingham Park Master Plan.
Voting against the planning commission’s recommendation, councilman Matt Gennett — himself a land use planner and Wildridge resident — said these days, constructing trail networks in new mountain neighborhoods is no longer an option, it’s a requirement.
“If you look at the sheer number of people moving to Colorado each month, that pressure is pushing directly up into the Western Slope,” Gennett said. “If we don’t responsibly build and design and maintain these trails, they will continue to be bootlegged in. I’ve ridden down the Metcalf drainage, by mistake — there is an informal social trail running down that gully.”
STANDING ROOM ONLY
The other no vote came from council member Jake Wolf, who said he wasn’t in favor of any of the options presented by staff to the planning commission.
“I think each trail should be taken as its own entity, and lumping them all together is not the way to do it,” he said.
Wolf is up for re-election in November, along with Mayor Jennie Fancher. Fancher said while she was appreciative of the level of respect shown by speakers who offered comments on Tuesday, she would like to see more polite language used in emails to the council.
“A lot of the anger and the animosity woke me up in the middle of the night,” she said. “It’s a terrible thing to have your community be so angry and rude.”
The meeting saw standing-room-only crowds, which is common for meetings involving trails in the Wildridge neighborhood.
“It’s amazing to me that trails is the one issue that fills this room,” Fancher said.
Using the meeting as opportunity for a plug before the November election, council candidate Amy Phillips said she wanted to hear what everyone thought, without offering her own opinion on the matter.
Wildridge resident Peter Buckley, another council candidate, said while he enjoys the trails the area currently has, he is against the plan for new trails in the Upper Metcalf area.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife representative Bill Andree offered the agency’s opinion on the matter: No new trail development in the Upper Metcalf area.
“Two of the studies that we looked at were done locally, and we have the fortune of having one of the most studied elk herds in the state of Colorado (nearby),” Andree said. “We saw no habituation by elk to mountain bikes.”
While opposing the Upper Metcalf plans, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has shown interest in expanding ATV use on state-owned property in the Whiskey Creek area near Eagle-Vail. Hunting licenses provide funding for Colorado Parks and Wildlife programs, and ATVs provide valuable hauling capabilities for hunters.
Andree quoted a study from the 1970s from Middle Park, which found that snowmobiles caused less stress to deer than foot traffic, as the animals could hear the vehicles coming from farther away.
“A snowshoer or cross-country skier is slow and quiet, they look like a human, and to get across a 40-acre meadow takes 15, 20, 30 minutes,” Andree said.
Gennett asked Andree if the wildlife currently in the Metcalf Gulch had been habituated to the cars on Metcalf Road nearby.
“Our deer herd in this area has dropped 21 percent, and I’m talking just from 1988,” Andree said. “We’ll never bring that back.”
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