Off-road riders on the right track?
In an effort to cut down on the abuse of public lands and provide a safe place to play, the Eagle Valley Sport Riders club is working with the town of Gypsum and the Bureau of Land Management – or, BLM – to create a park for dirt bikes. Construction is still at least a year away and the process could still be derailed, but the ball is rolling.
The Bureau of Land Management is currently evaluating a proposal that would create a designated dirt bike riding area on 90 to 100 acres of public land north of Gypsum. The land is located near Dry Gulch, north of the Gypsum mine on Gulch Road. The town of Gypsum has stepped forward as the government sponsor of the proposal, although most of the footwork is being done by the BLM and the Sport Riders.
As proposed, the town is the applicant for a lease on the property under the federal Recreation and Public Purposes Act – the same law under which Eagle County acquired property for its landfill. However, responsibility for the property would be turned over almost immediately to the Sport Riders Club.
The club, in turn, is seeking grants from Colorado State Parks and industry groups, as well as “in-kind” donations from members, in order to design and build a handful of tracks on the parcel over the course of a few years. Those tracks would include one for beginners, one for experienced riders and one for riders who enjoy the jumps and stunts seen on “extreme” sports shows on TV.
Bob Egan, owner of Eagle Motor Works and a long-time racer and trail rider, knows the difference between tracks and trails. He said that distinction is lost on many of the young riders he encounters in the backcountry.
“The first thing the kids want to know is where the jumps are,” he said.
Channeling the thrill-seekers to a track could go a long way toward easing impacts on public lands. That’s one reason Gypsum officials are backing the track plan.
“Between Gypsum and Eagle there’s a lot of scarring,” said Gypsum Town Manager Jeff Shroll. Noting that the vegetation on Red Hill in Gypsum hides a lot of damage, Shroll added, “Red Hill is just as bad as east Eagle, if not worse.”
“We’re creating significant drainage and erosion problems up there,” Shroll said. “If you can have a designated place for some of these riders to go, that’s great.”
Beyond easing impacts on public lands, a track could provide an economic boost for the town. If a track is built, it would draw people from neighboring counties and, eventually, farther away.
Club member Paul Miller noted that if the track near Gypsum is built, it would be the only facility of its kind between Denver and Grand Junction. Miller said he and his family travel regularly to tracks along the Front Range. Those tracks, especially one near Berthoud, about 30 miles north of Denver on Interstate 25, are great places for a family to ride, said Miller. “That’s the kind of atmosphere we want here,” he said.
Miller said his son Windham, who’s just 7, isn’t yet an experienced enough rider to tackle some of the trails in the Hardscrabble area near Eagle. A track would best suit his needs as rider still learning how to control a machine.
Dorothy Morgan, outdoor recreation planner at the BLM’s Glenwood Springs office, said demand exists for a track.
“Things are poised to fall into place for a track somewhere. .. We’re committed to finding a site,” Morgan said. Part of that commitment is due to the BLM’s desire to manage motorized use of the trail systems.
“Use is happening. We want to create a place where riders want to go. We have a better chance of managing use if we can do that,” said Morgan. However, she cautioned it’s way too early to count on a track at the site identified in the current plan.
“This site could be found unsuitable,” Morgan said. “But we want to do this somewhere.”
This story first appeared in the Eagle Valley Enterprise.