Avon planning board: no new trails planned
AVON — If there’s one issue that can pack Town Hall full of people, it’s trails.
Approximately 80 residents and stakeholders turned out to the regular meeting of the Avon Planning and Zoning Commission on Tuesday to hear the commission’s recommendation to council regarding a trails plan presented by town staff and the trails steering committee.
After hours of commentary from those residents and from Colorado Department of Wildlife biologist Craig Wescoatt, commissioners voted against the staff’s recommendation to double the existing amount of soft trails within the town boundaries. Commissioners Lindsay Hardy, Kenneth Howell Jared Barnes supported the plan, while commissioners Jim Clancy, Tab Bonidy, Marty Golembiewski and John Minervini voted against the new trails.
DEER TODAY, GONE TOMORROW?
Calling out the Metcalf Drainage area — the centerpiece of the proposed plan — as the most important piece of wildlife habitat remaining in the town, Wescoatt said the best thing residents can do to support wildlife in the area is to ensure the town stops building trails.
“We don’t have any resources left,” Wescoatt said. “We’re kind of down to the straw that broke the camel’s back. One of these times, and I don’t know when it’s going to be, we’re going to be out of the wildlife business, there’s not going to be any local wildlife populations left. We’re going to have segments left, we’re going to have a nice little patch up here and a nice little patch up there, but it’s not going to be like it is now, where you drive down the interstate and you look up on the hillsides, and you get to see deer and elk.”
Residency AND Stewardship
Wescoatt said when Colorado Parks and Wildlife examined the original plans to put houses in the Wildridge area, they recommended against any development there.
Hardy asked Wescoatt if he thinks there has been negligence on the part of those Wildridge homeowners regarding wildlife.
“It’s like anything else — some people up there are wonderful stewards of wildlife, and other people let their dogs out at night and say ‘see you in the morning,’” Wescoatt said.
One person at the meeting identified as a good steward of wildlife habitat was local wildlife photographer and Wildridge resident Rick Spitzer. With commenters limited to two minutes, many at the meeting ceded their time to Spitzer. Spitzer, who said he has spent years working on trail crews, used the recent advent of trails in the nearby West Avon Preserve as an example of why he is against trails in the Metcalf Drainage area.
“The switchbacks on Lee’s Way contain water, which moves on down the hill and washes out at the bottom,” Spitzer said, pointing to photos he had taken as evidence of the claim. “Look at the damage caused by those switchbacks on that hillside — that’s what we’re going to be looking at on Wildridge coming down on Bear Trap (Road).”
Spitzer showed the group photos in which he said deer and elk are visible in the area.
Wescoatt said that unlike deer, when elk vacate an area, they don’t come back.
“Elk totally abandon an area if they’re disturbed,” he said. “Where do they have to go that isn’t already occupied?”
Anecdotally, Wescoatt said he has heard stories of elk sightings in the Metcalf Drainage area, but he does not have any studies to back up those claims. He said he knows the area has unauthorized trails in it currently, but wants to discourage use as much as possible.
“Is there going to be a lot more use if you put a regulated trail system in there? I would say yes,” he said.
The Avon Town Council will examine the planning commission’s recommendation at a future meeting.
“This is a celebration of all our veterans have done for us,” said Pat Hammon with the local VFW Post, who served as a nurse in Vietnam. “It’s not a time for sadness.”