New Berlaimont Estates recreation proposals will be vetted at meeting Wednesday, Aug. 15 | VailDaily.com

New Berlaimont Estates recreation proposals will be vetted at meeting Wednesday, Aug. 15

MINTURN — The U.S. Forest Service will host an open house Wednesday, Aug. 15, to discuss some new proposals regarding the Berlaimont Estates Road Improvement Project.

The informational meeting will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Holy Cross Ranger Station located at 24747 U.S. Highway 24 in Minturn. Forest Service and town of Avon staff will be available to answer questions. The purpose of this meeting will be to introduce new changes to the proposed Berlaimont Estates Road Improvement Project. These changes are a result of the most recent public comment period and focus on mitigation of wildlife and recreation impacts.

Berlaimont Estates is a 680-acre parcel of private property surrounded by U.S. Forest Service lands, located north of Edwards and west of the Berry Creek drainage. Owners Petr Lukes and Jana Sobotova have proposed 19 units and nine accessory units on 35-acre or larger parcels in the area. The proposed development is classified as a use by right under Colorado law. Residential lots that equal or exceed 35 acres in size are exempt from subdivision regulation, and no public hearings about the land-use part of the proposal were required.

But the location of the property has launched a public process through the U.S. Forest Service. Because Berlaimont is an in-holding, the developers must build an access road through Forest Service land. The road development requires an Environmental Impact Statement from the Forest Service, as well as a formal determination regarding whether the proposed 19-unit residential area is a "reasonable" use.

According to Aaron Mayville, Eagle-Holy Cross district ranger for the U.S. Forest Service, the comment period for the Berlaimont EIS earlier this year generated nearly 650 responses

"That was expected," Mayville said. "There is a lot of interest in this project."

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As a result of the comments received, there have been changes to the proposal and those changes are the focus of the meeting.

Snowmobile Access

The new proposal floats the idea of closing the current snowmobile access point along Berry Creek Road north of Interstate 70 in favor of a new access point and parking area off a June Creek Road spur in the Wildridge neighborhood.

"The Berry Creek access is pretty low down there and on a south-facing slope, so it doesn't hold snow very well," Mayville said.

He noted access from the Wildridge neighborhood would provide snowmobile riders more direct access to the riding areas they want to reach. Additionally, it would provide wildlife mitigation.

"By closing the 4 1/2 miles of road (between Berry Creek and June Creek), it would help with wildlife impacts," Mayville said.

He noted that Wednesday's open house is an opportunity for Wildridge residents and town of Avon officials to react to the proposed change.

"We don't want to roll out a draft EIS that has all these changes in it without giving people the opportunity to comment first," he said.

Multiuse Recreation Trail

Mayville said the other new proposal for the Berlaimont EIS is a new multiuse trail. He noted part of the current trail ascent route follows the proposal alignment for the paved road.

The new trail is in the vicinity of the existing Berry Creek trail, and at Wednesday's meeting, the public can see the proposed alignment depicted on maps.

"We are calling it a multiuse trail, and it will be a way for dog-walkers and hikers and mountain bikers to all have a trail experience," Mayville said.

Wednesday's meeting will begin with a short presentation at 5 p.m., followed by an open house where people can speak directly to Forest Service personnel.

Mayville said the White River National Forest continues to work on its final Berlaimont Environmental Impact Statement, which is expected to be released sometime later this year. Additional information can be obtained from Matt Klein, realty specialist for the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District, at his email, matthewklein@fs.fed.us, or 970-827-5182.