Feds may keep Hardscrabble rides on trails | VailDaily.com

Feds may keep Hardscrabble rides on trails

David L'Heureux
Special to the Daily/Jeff CriccoA mountain biker rides singletrack in the Hardscrabble area of western Eagle County. All vehicles, with and without motors, may soon be restricted to trails.

EAGLE COUNTY – Temporary, but necessary, is the theme for a federal agency and its rules for who can use the Hardscrabble area of western Eagle County. In an effort to halt the proliferation of unplanned trails, which can damage the land and the scenery, the Bureau of Land Management has what it calls an “interim travel management designation” for the recreation area between Gypsum and Eagle, south of I-70. The current federal designation for the area is “open,” meaning people are free to ride wherever they see fit. The new, temporary status would be “limited to designated routes,” meaning people must stay on existing trails. To do this the Bureau of Land Management had to map the trail. The problem is the agency doesn’t know exactly all the routes out there. That’s where the public comes in. In December, the bureau – known by its acronym, BLM – hosted a day-long session at the Gypsum Town Hall, where the public was invited to help the bureau identify all the trails. “The BLM has taken these comments and updated their maps to reflect the suggested changes,” said the bureau’s Dorothy Morgan. Routes could close

Future decisions by the bureau may maintain, rescind or modify this interim designations. The agency is expected to begin writing new rules in 2006. “This a temporary designation and nothing is permanent,” Morgan said. “A lot of these routes could be closed when we do our formal planning, so don’t get too attached to them.” Last summer, the agency also collected public comments on the Hardscrabble area. A common theme among those who spoke was unauthorized trails should be prevented. “It’s important that the area is managed,” said Paul Miller, a member of the Eagle Valley Sport Riders Club agrees. “But, the BLM needs to be open to the proposal of new trail systems. Existing trails don’t always accommodate all the different riding levels out there.” Local mountain biker Leslie Kehmeier also says Hardscrabble area has be more carefully managed. “I’m in favor of designated routes,” said Kehmeier, adding that Hardscrabble is kind of a free-for-all, right now. “I would like to see a provision for building trails in the future to make loops and that kind of thing, too.”Morgan said the BLM heard these comments “loud and clear” and the interim plan will help the agency install signs and shut down illegal trails.”Being a small piece of land, Hardscrabble can’t be everything to everyone,” said Morgan.

Education, enforcementHardscrabble may be small, but it is big enough that enforcing a trails-only policy could prove challenging for the bureau. Morgan says those who use the area will have to help enforce the rules.”We also heard at the travel assessment that people think that peer pressure is an effective way of policing each other,” said Morgan. “The idea isn’t to get people in trouble, it’s to inform people as to what they are allowed to do.”If people know that they have the law on their side, they might be more likely to correct someone they see misusing public land, Morgan said.Ultimately, it comes down to respect for fellow trail users, and the fragile lands that comprise the Hardscrabble area, Miller said. “Responsible use is what the Sport Riders Club is all about,” said Miller. “We have to be responsive and responsible about environmental aspects and the communal aspects of trail riding.”The BLM will seek to finalize this report in upcoming weeks and send it to the Department of the Interior in Washington D.C. for approval as soon as the last public input has been taken. If all goes according to plan, they may have the plan in place for the summer.

==========================================To Learn MoreThe new trail map for the Hardscrabble recreation between Eagle and Gypsum can be seen at the Eagle and the Gypsum town halls until Friday. The map is also online at http://www.co.blm.gov/gsra/travelmanagement.htm. For more information, call the Bureau of Land Management’s Glenwood Springs Field Office at (970)947-2800. ==========================================Vail, Colorado

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