Eagle Open Space Committee readies to make trails recommendation to Town Council

The Town of Eagle Open Space and Trails Department is developing new management plans to analyze existing conditions and provide recommendations for management strategies on open space properties and trails in town.
Town of Eagle/Courtesy photo

In Eagle, many of the trails that lead to federally controlled public lands begin in town, on areas of town-owned open space. After months of work, the town of Eagle’s Open Space and Recreation Advisory Committee will soon make recommendations to the Eagle Town Council regarding new plans for those open space areas in town.

The project budget was $53,000 and the plans were created by ERO Resources, a natural resource consulting firm. The plans were broken up into four zones: Abrams Creek and Eagle Ranch; the Bluffs Neighborhood, Eagle River and Eby Creek; the Haymeadow, Spud Cellar and Haymaker trailhead area, and Johnson’s Corner and Brush Creek.

ERO Resources began developing the plans in early 2023, and two public surveys were held, the most recent taking place in October. The results of that survey, along with final drafts of the management plans will be presented to the Open Space and Recreation Advisory Committee on Tuesday. The committee is then expected to make a recommendation to the Town Council regarding the adoption of the plans.

Eagle’s Open Space and Trails department has requested the Town Council adopt the four management plans.

“The purpose of the Management Plans is to provide an assessment of existing natural resources and to guide resource management of properties in the Town’s open space portfolio,” wrote Eagle Open Space and Trails Manager Brian Lieberman in a memo to the committee. “More specifically, the Management Plans document existing conditions, highlight resource management issues, and identify strategies to address resource management issues and maintain the overall integrity of resources on open space properties. The plans also prioritize management recommendations that help to achieve management objectives.”

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In addition to creating management plans, ERO Resources was also asked to recommend how the town should proceed with a few of what the open space department calls “challenging policy issues,” including winter trail management of the Haymaker Trail, the motorized width limit for the Second Gulch Trail and e-bike use on dirt trails in town.

Town staff did not make its own recommendation as to how the committee should advise the Town Council on these policy issues, instead asking the committee to review ERO’s recommendations. And ERO wasn’t ready to make full-on policy recommendations on all the issues, either.

Regarding motorized use on the Second Gulch trail, “we do not believe that this management plan, and its limited community process, is sufficient to resolve this issue,” ERO wrote.

Instead, the consulting firm recommends Eagle develop a specific community process for a Second Gulch plan, engaging the BLM along with “a professional facilitator to manage and facilitate the process,” according to ERO’s recommendation, which would include convening four or five community meetings seeking “to define a consensus solution.”

ERO Resources is similarly vague on eBike direction, suggesting the town “work with Eagle County, BLM, USFS, and other partners to develop a long-term strategy for managing eMTB access in a manner that is consistent with resource needs and compatible across jurisdictions,” saying the end result could be either a pathway towards allowing e-MTB access to many trails over the long term or continued restrictions or prohibitions.

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On the winter closures of Haymaker, however, ERO has a solid recommendation: Close the Second, Third, and Extra Credit Loops.

Among the reasons, “Maintaining access to the first loop will provide residents a meaningful and logical opportunity to access open space in an area with existing human disturbance, while closure of the second loop would protect the highest value winter habitat in the vicinity,” ERO writes.

The contract with ERO Resources began in May and included meetings with focus groups to discuss issues and objectives related to natural resource and recreation management in June; evaluation of existing resource data and field assessments of open space properties in June and July; an online survey to assess community preferences around key open space management topics in August; the creation of draft management plans and policy recommendations in September and October; and the presentation of the draft management plans and policy recommendations to the public, along with another public survey, in October.

Liberman said in addition to the $53,000 plans and policy recommendations, the project has also included significant staff time, and his department is hoping to have the project completed – with approval from the Eagle Town Council — by December.

Tuesday’s meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m., with public comment set for 9:05 a.m., in the council chambers of Eagle Town Hall, located at 200 Broadway Street.

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