East Eagle the only area of county to see new trail openings on April 15 | VailDaily.com

East Eagle the only area of county to see new trail openings on April 15

Seasonal closures extended on Hardscrabble Mountain, West Avon Preserve

All multi-use trails in West Avon Preserve will be closed through at least April 15, except Our Backyard and PB&J.
Linda Guerrette | Daily file photo

EAGLE — The Pool & Ice Rink trail is now open, although it was still a little wet near the top as of Monday, an annual trail opening day in Eagle County.

Pool &and Ice Rink is among a group of trails in the area known as east Eagle, which was the only area of Eagle County to see new soft-surface trail openings on Monday.

Closures in the West Avon Preserve, Hardscrabble Mountain and other areas of the county that usually celebrate trail openings on April 15 have been extended indefinitely.

Even in east Eagle, which would appear to be ride-ready, closures on the Haymaker trail have been extended, as well. Elk have been spotted in the areas surrounding the Haymaker Outer Loops trails, so while that area seems ready to enjoy (and indeed you might see people hiking and biking it), trail users have been asked to stay away for the time being in deference to the county’s dwindling elk population.

Waitig on elk in Eagle

The Haymaker Outer Loops are on town of Eagle property, and the town can choose to deem the area open or closed as it sees fit.

Acting Open Space Manager Jeremy Gross said the Haymaker Outer Loops will remain closed until the elk move on.

“They’re a good quarter of a mile past Haymaker,” Gross said of the elk in the area. “We’re going to continue to observe day by day, and we’ll make a decision.”

In the east Eagle area, the Lower Boneyard trail, along with Redneck Ridge, are also open as those trails aren’t subject to seasonal closures. The Dirt Surfer trail in east Eagle is technically open, but, as it leads to the Haymaker trail, people are being asked to stay off of it or turn around and head back up once you get to Haymaker.

The upper portion of the Boneyard trail is closed, as well, so trail users are being asked to get off the trail and onto the road at the green gate about halfway up the trail.

“We really want to encourage people not to ride muddy trails,” said Charlie Brown, of the Hardscrabble Trails Coalition. “And Upper Boneyard is still a mess, it probably won’t be rideable for a week or two.”

Visit eagleoutside.com/explore/trails for up to date info on trail closures and conditions.

Mud in Avon

Like Eagle, the town of Avon also owns an area of land that contains trails that can be closed and opened at the town’s discretion outside of the normal wildlife closures, which occur between Dec. 15 and April 15.

This year, the town of Avon has decided to extend the trail closures in the West Avon Preserve due to muddy conditions.

“After evaluating the current state of the trail system and the current storm cycle, it was decided to keep the lower portions of the West Avon Preserve closed until further notice,” Planning Director Matt Pielsticker wrote in a press release. “Physical barriers and signage will remain at the closure points until the trails are opened. Signs will also be posted at the trailheads alerting trail users of the extended closure.”

The Avon closures affect the popular Lee’s Way Down trail, along with Avon Singletree Connector, PB&J, Saddle Ridge Loop, Wyse Way, Carroll’s Cutoff, BLT and Wild West Ridge.

Trails not subject to seasonal closures that are still open in the West Avon Preserve include Our Backyard, Playground Way and Beaver Creek Point.

Snow in Vail

And while some areas of the county celebrate trail openings on April 15, other areas see spring wildlife closures going into effect.

The North Trail in Vail closed on Monday, a closure expected to remain in effect until June 20.

Renewed efforts by the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Association to remind potential users of closures — an undertaking known as the trails ambassador program — has been effective in educating trail users of the closures.

Fences were put in to help enforce trail closures on the North Trail in Vail last year.

The formation of the ambassador program also included the erecting of gates in some areas as a more tangible reminder to stay away.

Elk were spotted in the area near the North Trail last spring just days before the closures went into effect.

“The trail ambassador program was pretty impressive in its ability to educate people, make contact with people, and keep stats on those contacts,” said Vail Valley Mountain Trails Association Executive Director Ernest Saeger.

Ambassadors focused on the North Trail and the Two Elk trail in Vail, and the Stone Creek trail in Eagle-Vail. They made 897 encounters with people over 176 hours of volunteer time.

“The information collected was added to a master digital logging system that will help (the U.S. Forest Service and the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance) better understand what is happening on these trails without relying on cameras alone,” wrote Michelle Wolffe, who helped manage the program last year.

Leading up to the launch of the trail ambassador program, the Forest Service used cameras to document 200 people on a closed trail over a 10 day period.

“Eagle County has a strong biking community and having a dry trail is tempting to people wanting to ride or hike,” wrote Wolffe. “What they might not understand is that the closure isn’t always about the trail condition. Deer and elk that have struggled to survive all winter, need access to specific familiar regions to refuel their depleted bodies and safely raise their new young. Closing some trails allows them a familiar safe zone to refuel and give birth.”