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Some local trails may be closed

Nicole Frey
Dawn Beacon/Vail DailyThe U.S. Forest Service is reviewing whether to open or close the Edwards water tower trail, a popular hiking route.
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Over the years, the hiking trail that starts at the water tower in Homestead has become more and more popular.

It’s practically an institution in the neighborhood, and people come from miles around to walk up the path and take in the fabulous views.

Somehow, as time went on, the trail, which runs over U.S. Forest Service and private land, was maintained. Who kept the trail in such good condition is a mystery to the Forest Service, who manages the roads and trails on Forest Service land.

The water tower trail is just one of many rouge trails in the White River National Forest, which encompasses Eagle County. Rogue trail are those not built by the Forest Service.

Now, Forest Service personnel are trying to figure out if these trails should be adopted or closed.

Since 2002, the Forest Service has worked to map all legal and illegal roads and trails in the forest. With the sizable task of mapping under their belts, the Forest Service Thursday presented a draft of its Travel Management Plan to the public, which suggests which modes of transportation ” from hiking to all-terrain vehicles ” should be allowed on each route during different times of the year.

This is the first time in about two decades the travel plan will be updated.

“We’re trying to get the right balance of access to the national forest … while maintaining forest health,” said Maribeth Gustafson, supervisor of the White River National Forest.

Although the Forest Service representatives have ideas of what should happen, they’re asking the people who use these routes to get involved.

“I think in a lot of these things, we need to work cooperatively with the county and the neighbors,” said Wendy Haskins, a forest planner with the White River National Forest.

Like with the water tower trail in Homestead, it’s not just as simple as allowing biking or horseback riding. When the renegade trail was created, it crossed private property, along with Forest Service land.

“We’d have to get some sort of agreement with the land owners,” Haskins said. “Yes, it is a very popular trail. In this case, it might make sense to adopt it. And in any case, we’d like to hear from the public. If they say, ‘Yeah we really like this, and we’ll maintain it and give right of ways,” then it makes sense.”

It’s not just unauthorized routes that might be closed. Trails and roads deemed to be unnecessary or harmful to wildlife could be closed.

Sensitive areas could receive even more care when the process is finished next summer. New signs and maps will let people know where they should and shouldn’t be.

“It’s been quite a while since we looked at this,” Gustafson said. “In the end, we just want to make it clear to users where they should go, and which trails we ought not to use. We want to allow people to make a clear decision to recreate responsibly or break the rules.”

There will be an open house to learn more about the Travel Management Plan from 4 to 7 p.m., Aug. 9 at the Eagle Town Hall in Eagle. For more information, contact Cal Wettstein at 328-6388.

Mail comments to:

WRNF Travel Management Plan and DEIS

c/o Content Analysis Group

P.O. Box 2000

Bountiful, UT 84011-2000

Fax to: 1-801-397-2601

E-mail to: wrnftmp@contentanalysisgroup.com

Deliver a comment to White River National Forest officer in Aspen, Carbondale, Eagle, Glenwood Springs, Meeker, Minturn, Rifle or Silverthorne.

Include your name, address, phone number and organization on your comment, as well as the title of the document you’re commenting on and specific facts and supporting reasons. Comments are due Oct. 26.

For more information about the Travel Management Plan or to see the draft, visit http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/whiteriver/projects/forest_plan.

Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 748-2927 or nfrey@vaildaily.com.

Vail, Colorado


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