Red Cliff wary of forest plan
Vail, CO Colorado
RED CLIFF, Colorado – Mango’s Mountain Grill is a popular lunch spot for groups on ATVs, owner Eric Cregon said.
So it would be a drag if ATVs can no longer cruise several nearby roads, he said.
“That would really mess up my summer business,” Cregon said.
In a town where ATV riders help drive the economic engine, some people are wary of the U.S. Forest Service’s travel management plan.
Forest officials are working out the final details of the plan and hope to release it by December.
The most recent draft released to the public calls for closing several roads in the Camp Hale area to unlicensed ATVs.
However, forest planner Wendy Haskins stressed the Forest Service is looking at several alternatives for the plan.
“It can go either way,” she said. “The final decision has yet to be made.”
Greg Caretto owns Nova Guides, a business that rents ATVs and offers guided rides near Camp Hale. He’s been talking to forest officials about his concerns.
“We are in negotiations and they’re hearing our side,” he said.
The draft plan calls for closing several roads in the Camp Hale area to unlicensed ATVs, including Resolution, Hornsilver, Wearyman and McAllister roads. Licensed motorized uses would still be allowed. Nova Guides has been running its ATV business on the roads for 20 years, Caretto said. ATVs represent about 25 percent of his business.
“If they close everything, I’m out of business in the ATV portion of my business,” he said.
The Forest Service is concerned with how different types of recreation impact safety and the environment.
As the Forest Service examines all roads, including those near Camp Hale, Haskins said officials will consider whether conflicts exist between the different types of users.
“Is it safe to allow a 10-year-old on an ATV in an area with high use traffic and lack of vision or something like that?” she said. “You have to look at that issue in general.”
Forest officials are also looking at whether any uses are harming nearby water, plants or wildlife.
The travel management plan has been in the works for a decade. It determines which roads and trails are open in the White River National Forest, and what uses are allowed on the roads that remain open. The plan clarifies the status of about 5,600 miles of roads and trails covering the 2.3 million acre forest, including 1,200 miles of unauthorized routes, Haskins said previously.
Red Cliff Mayor Ramon Montoya said he’s “very concerned” about any changes the Forest Service could make to the roads at Camp Hale.
He said the town’s businesses are totally dependent on tourism, including visitors on ATVs.
The town recently took a stand against the Hidden Gems wilderness campaign, a plan to designate as federal wilderness 342,000 acres in Eagle, Summit, Pitkin and Gunnison counties.
“I think our feeling is: Let’s look at other alternatives rather than just turning (the land) into permanent wilderness,” Montoya said.
Rep. Jared Polis used the Hidden Gems proposal as the basis for a bill that would create about 166,000 acres of new wilderness in Eagle and Summit counties.
Montoya said he’s especially concerned about the No Name and Homestake parcels included in Hidden Gems. Only the No Name parcel made it into Polis’ bill.
Susie Kincade, a local spokeswoman for the campaign, said Hidden Gems would close no road or trails in those parcels. She said she offered to sit down and talk with Red Cliff officials about their concerns but they never took her up on the offer.
“They made their decision in a vacuum in terms of talking to me or the Hidden Gems campaign,” she said.
Staff Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or email@example.com.