Open Space a hot topic in Eagle |

Open Space a hot topic in Eagle

David L'Heureux

People in the town of Eagle showed they are not afraid to put their two cents in when it comes to using town open space. Despite the contentious nature of this issue, the theme of last week’s town-sponsored open house seemed to be cooperation. Citizens using the space for activities ranging from hiking to biking to motorcycling and horse back riding turned up to let open space coordinator Bill Heicher and assistant town planner Bill Grey know where they stand. The town will use that input to draft an open space management plan, which will then be subject to further public input at hearings in late June.A personal interest in mountain biking and her volunteer work as a member of the county’s ECO Trails committee prompted Eagle resident Leslie Kehmeier to stop by the meeting. “Eagle is really big for mountain biking. There is some super-fun riding,” said Kehmeier, although she noted trails committee members work to answer the needs of all types of trail users. “There are people who want to be involved.”There was no public access from the town of Eagle to adjacent federal lands to the south until Eagle Ranch developed, added Kehmeier. The dedication of a public open space along the south edge of the subdivision has created the kind of access opportunities, and issues, that caused so many people to come out for the input session.More people, more problems

A recent increase in traffic on the vast trail system surrounding Eagle has made open space use and access issues into a hot topic. Citizens were invited to record their sentiments on various maps. On the map earmarked for mountain bikers, for example, there was more than one note that expressed a desire by hikers to see open space areas off limits to mountain bikers trying to gain access to public lands.In response, one biker wrote, ‘wherever foot and hoof shall travel, a wheel shall follow.’While Heicher did not fully agree with that motto, he said it illustrates the challenges and problems that trail access and open space use bring up.”Right now it’s a divisive issue,” said Heicher. “People have a vision of how the space can best serve them and not so much of an idea of how the space can best be served. People want immediate gratification.”Paul Miller of Avon, a leader with the Eagle Valley Sports Riders Club, attended primarily to offer input regarding access for motor bike riders. He cited the need for all trail users, including motor bike riders, equestrians, hikers, and mountain bikers to work together.”We need to bring attitudes together to make it work,” said Miller, “The key is to work together to provide access points for all interested users – it shouldn’t be exclusionary.”The Eagle Valley Sports Riders group is currently working with the Bureau of Land Management to establish a designated trail riding area north of Gypsum. Miller said such facilities help to eliminate the proliferation of renegade trails built without government approval.What about wildlife?

Another group with perhaps the greatest vested interest in maintaining quality open space in Eagle was not heard from on Thursday – that would be the wide variety of wildlife that inhabit the local eco-system. Heicher’s five objectives for managing open space (see sidebar) focus on protecting wildlife. In fact, words like “conserve,” “protect” and “maintain” are more frequently found in those objectives than words promoting trail use and recreation. Still, some of the anonymous notes scribbled on open space maps at the input session advocating doing away with seasonal trail closures -particularly for hikers – aimed at protecting wildlife. “The whole reason for acquiring that space was to preclude human use during the spring,” said Heicher. “The foot traffic is as harmful as the mountain bikes or motorcycles. It is closed to give the animals a break during the winter (and early-spring).”Although people have some substantial disagreements on specific usage issues and seasonal closures, at least some t seem to want what’s best for the land, and are willing to compromise to get there.”The bottom line is it won’t work if people don’t cooperate amongst all the user groups,” said Heicher. ==========================================Open space objectives

Objectives for managing town of Eagle open space, keeping in mind land managers consider the semi-arid lands fragile and vulnerable to over-use:• Conserve natural characteristics• Protect critical wildlife habitat• Maintain scenic qualities• Provide appropriate recreational opportunities• Minimize damage to the natural environment==========================================

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