Letter: The backstory on the Upper Metcalf Trail debate | VailDaily.com

Letter: The backstory on the Upper Metcalf Trail debate

John LaConte wrote a good article, “Motorized trail users scolded in Avon as discussion over access continues,” but sadly, it was very under-researched. The history of the Upper Metcalf Trail, FS Road 779, and access to Red and White Mountain Trails is long and interesting. It is worthy of a thorough understanding and discussion. During the travel management planning process (which began in 2006) the U.S. Forest Service invited us all — individuals, organizations, government agencies, including Avon — to participate.

The input was listened to and resulted in several proposals, labeled as Maps A, B, C, D, F, G with hundreds of pages of detailed identification as to every trail use including multi-use, mechanized, human (muscle) powered, equestrian and closed. In my memory, the Forest Service was receptive to Upper Metcalf staying open to motorized trail use, winter and summer. However, wanted Avon to participate and to provide a vehicle parking area at the beginning of the trail. Avon residents would then have convenient access to the Red and White recreation area. 

The conversation was reopened in 2013 when the Forest Service was receptive to alterations to the travel management plan. The Forest Service wants trailheads accessible to population centers but needs community support. Such was the case with what is now the West Avon Preserve, then 478 acres of Forest Service Land, on which we created a trails plan adopted into the travel management plan.

This plan was subsequently adopted and improved by Avon when the town acquired the 478-acre West Avon Preserve. I retain the maps and much of the documentation from this process. My involvement and focus were with other trails, especially Stag Gulch, intended to be closed by the plan, but with concentrated effort, meetings and letters, remained open and is now a primary access trail, hiking and equestrian, to the Big Park Forest Service lands area and connecting Edwards to Eagle via backcountry soft (dirt) trails. Focused elsewhere, I chose not to be involved in the Upper Metcalf discussion but remember the Forest Service asking for coaching on trying to get Avon involved. 

Not giving up hope, in April 2013 I coordinated a meeting, the notes from it available, bringing together the Forest Service, members of the Avon Town Council, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials (who were willing to provide funding) and a motorized recreational vehicle group. Sadly, with a dozen of us at the meeting and the Forest Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife willing to support the process of creating an approved trail system, nothing materialized, even after following up on the meeting with six months of encouraging communication asking interested groups to move forward. 
Also, you briefly discuss snowmobile access via FS Road 717-1B, out of Wildridge. FS 717-1B is the connector to the June Creek Trail, FS 717, which goes up to Red and White Mountain Trails. This access for snowmobiles was proposed by the Forest Service, just last year, however, Avon and the Wildridge Community chose not to accept this alternative, therefore making it necessary for snowmobilers to go to other trailheads. 
And, so it is, the conversation continues until a devoted, passionate and committed group chooses to lead the process for trail access from our communities into Forest Service lands.

Lee Rimel


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