Vail Daily column: Make Vail Trail environmentally sustainable
I would like to address some of the concerns that have been raised regarding improving the Vail Trail. The Vail Trail truly is a jewel that successfully can be made environmentally sustainable and shared in harmony by all trail users. We live here because it provides us the opportunity to responsibly experience the outdoors. We are proving multi-use trails work right here in our valley with the well accepted Boneyard, Haymaker and Eagle Ranch trails in Eagle, West Avon Preserve trails, Eagle-Vail trail and the North Trail. These trails routinely accommodate walkers, runners, bikers, individuals and families with no problems. Hiking specific trails do have their place and I enjoy hiking on the miles of hiking exclusive trails in our valley including Grouse Mountain and the extensive east Vail area.
Many other towns are embracing soft surface trail construction. Breckenridge, Steamboat Springs and Park City are just a few that are actively improving and setting aside funds for their soft surface trail systems. The Vail Trail is an integral component of Vail’s master plan for soft surface trails. This master plan is an excellent start and is important for future planning.
Since the Vail Trail was not properly constructed it makes sense to me to utilize the extensive knowledge base available to make thoughtful, well-constructed improvements that would benefit all users. It is possible to build a solid trail in this location. Proper trail construction will require benching, back sloping and avalanche mitigation. We have a wealth of experience when it comes to building trails in this valley and I am confident the Vail Trail will be well redesigned and thoughtfully constructed. Trail construction methods such as building by hand tools and using small machinery can be utilized to help preserve the integrity of the trail. Providing mountain bikers with a trail to ride will help with issues of bikers riding through the Memorial Park.
Environmental impact studies should absolutely be conducted regardless of the user groups. The environmental impact study will assess the feasibility of the trail, trail alignment plus any suggested seasonal trail closures. During the environmental impact study the area will be evaluated by professional wildlife biologists, botanists, hydrologists and archeologists. Sometimes bridges are required to reduce sediment damage; this is all part of responsible trail construction. Trails can be designed to help control user speeds while also optimizing visual corridors.
I appreciate the history of the Vail Trail. The story behind a trail is what makes trails so wonderful throughout the world. Many local trails have a history of mining or stock trails. Eagle has many trails built on old irrigation ditches. The Town of Breckenridge and the Colorado Trail does an excellent job of utilizing old mining flumes for trails. The Scout trail in Glenwood Springs and the Dotsero-Ute trail are prime examples local of trails with deep history. I do like the current the Vail Trail. I was also fond of the old Buffehr Creek and Meadow Mountain trails. I understand trail improvements are sometimes necessary, especially on trails like the Vail Trail that were not properly designed or built. These improvements should be accepted by all responsible trail users as they will help with erosion control and make the trail more environmentally sustainable. Hopefully resistance to change will not eliminate the needed improvements to the Vail Trail.
There were several public meetings held by the town of Vail. These were all open to the public and all trail users. Specifically, the meeting on Feb. 29 drew a large crowd and it was at this meeting that the town of Vail also presented their plan to improve the Vail Trail and embrace soft surface trail construction to continue allowing for mountain bike traffic on the trail.
We know multi-use trails do work right here in our valley and throughout the world. We know the citizens of our valley like to enjoy the outdoors and they do it utilizing different methods. We know the Vail Trail is an existing multi-use trail that was never properly built and needs improvements to be environmentally sustainable. The town of Vail is willing to complete these improvements and I hope the wider community of all trail users can proudly work together utilizing all trail users input to improve the Vail Trail making it environmentally sustainable to be enjoyed by all.
John Bailey is a multi-use trail enthusiast and active member of several local trail groups.
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