Vail Daily letter: Gems alternatives
Vail, CO Colorado
“Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride,” – John F. Kennedy.
I am hopeful I will be able to continue mountain bicycling the great trails I have enjoyed riding in Colorado. I have been following the progress of the Hidden Gems wilderness pro-posal since its creation, review-ing maps, visiting the locations and participating in meetings. I am excited that the Hidden Gems campaign has grown awareness of some truly special areas.
Presently, none of the four mountain-bike citizens groups from Eagle, Summit, Crested Butte and the Roaring Fork area fully approves of the current Hidden Gems proposal due to conflicts that the mountain-bike groups have presented in detail to the Hidden Gems campaign. These groups include ECO Trails, the Summit Fat Tire Soci-ety, the Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association, the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Associa-tion and the International Mountain Bike Association.
We live in a recreational-tourism- based area, and moun-tain biking is an essential com-ponent of that tourism. Many towns, including Eagle and Crested Butte, are taking steps to promote mountain biking in their regions. According to a 2006 study by the Outdoor Industry Foundation, 35 percent of Colorado residents partici-pate in bicycling, while 21 per-cent participate in snow sports. Bicycling provided $858 million in expenditures to the state’s economy. Despite what the Hid-den Gems campaign may state, its current proposal will have a significant negative impact on mountain biking in Colorado. I hope the Hidden Gems group is solution- minded and will work productively with the moun-tain- bike citizens groups to come up with a comprehensive plan based on research and facts.
It is important to remember that wilderness designation is not the only way to protect our lands. Congress has preserved natural resources and existing bicycle use by using a number of companion designations such as national scenic areas, national protection areas, national recre-ation areas and national conser-vation areas. These areas are lands protected by an act of Con-gress where the prescribed use of the area is set by the proposal. Wilderness areas adjacent to companion protected areas have recently successfully been implemented in Colorado. Rep. John Salazar’s successful Dom-inquez- Escalante National Con-servation Area and Dominquez Canyon Wilderness Act ( which passed as part of the Omnibus Public Lands Act) include a large wilderness core surround-ed by a bicycle- friendly com-panion protected area leaving the popular Tabeguache trail open to mountain bikers.
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National conservation areas are designated by Congress to conserve, protect, enhance and manage public lands for the ben-efit and enjoyment of present and future generations. NCAs offer landscapes with exception-al natural, recreational, cultural, wildlife, aquatic, archaeological, paleontological, historical, edu-cational and scientific resources. The James Peak Wilderness and Protection Area by Winter Park were recently introduced with a companion-area designation that permits mountain biking on the Rogers Pass trail plus other mountain-bike trails.
Mountain bikers are passion-ate about outdoor recreation, taking pleasure in the freedom to enjoy healthy, quiet recre-ation on public lands, and are not anti- wilderness; they are just pro- mountain biking. We are not stating mountain bikes belong everywhere, and, when mountain- bike use is properly recognized, mountain bikers support new wilderness propos-als.
However, mountain bikers also want to protect their favorite areas from mining, drilling, road building and so on.
The Hidden Gems group has made a