Mayville: Let’s talk about Berlaimont
With summer in full swing around the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District, there’s been no shortage of events and discussion regarding Forest Service issues lately.
To name a few, in April, we conducted a 1,000-acre prescribed burn east of Glenwood Canyon to improve wildlife habitat; Vail Mountain is in full construction mode with its snowmaking project and Golden Peak improvements; the new Hanging Lake shuttle is operating and running smoothly; a new, community-funded, Front Country Ranger program is staffed and out patrolling; and although we’re still working to clean up avalanche debris and fix some major washouts here and there, most of our roads and trails are open to the public.
This past week, we cut the ribbon on the Everkrisp Trail, which is the first new non-motorized trail on the district in over a decade. While the idea to connect Meadow Mountain to EagleVail has been around for a while, when it was first proposed in 2015, my staff and I were struggling to maintain the over 570 miles of existing trail and weren’t in the position to add anything new. The group mobilized Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance, the EagleVail Metro District, and community support, to establish the Adopt-A-Trail program. Four years later, 53 trails have been adopted and the partnership has led to building the Everkrisp Trail.
The decision to build a new trail was contingent upon making a real commitment to our wildlife closures. Here again, VVMTA stepped up and began the AAT Ambassador Program, where volunteers help to educate and inform visitors about our trail closures. This effort, coupled with new signage and trail gates, has led to a sharp decrease in violations.
There is still work to do, but I’m pleased with the effort and compliance so far. The story of the Everkrisp Trail is something I think the whole community should be proud of, and it demonstrates a commitment to wildlife by helping relieve some of the pressure on our local deer and elk populations.
Speaking of elk and deer, let me briefly address Berlaimont. For as controversial and difficult as it has been, I’m heartened by the outpouring of community interest regarding this project. I have read every single letter to the editor, every story in the Vail Daily, each comment on Facebook, and I have listened to every person who has reached out for a meeting or approached me in public.
As a resident of Eagle County myself, I understand the community’s concerns about the Berlaimont project. Our charge as public land managers is to follow the laws, regulations, and policies that have shaped Forest Service management for over a century. I can assure you that we are trying our best to do just that.
There has also been discussion lately regarding this question: Given the potential wildlife impacts, why entertain this project at all? This has been asked specifically in relation to my reluctance to entertain a chairlift from EagleVail to Beaver Creek due, in part, to the likely wildlife impacts. Simply put: there is a law that compels the Forest Service to provide adequate access to Berlaimont. If the Forest Service didn’t have to analyze this project, we likely wouldn’t have. Conversely, accepting a proposal for a new chairlift outside the ski area permit boundary is entirely discretionary and I decided not to accept it.
And while I don’t have the space here to respond to all the concerns I’ve heard and read about Berlaimont, I would like to make both a request and an offer. I request that you read through our analysis of the potential impacts of the project rather than relying on hearsay or rumor. You can review all of the Forest Service’s current analysis by clicking here.
I’m proud of the work my staff has done to analyze the impacts, and I want us all to have the right information. I also offer to discuss this project with anyone — not just at chance encounters in public. Please feel free to call my office at (970) 827-5715 and schedule some time to discuss Berlaimont with me — many folks have done so already, and it’s important to me that you know we hear your concerns and answer any questions that we can.
As always, I want to thank you for your interest in and support for our beautiful National Forest, and I hope you find a corner of it to enjoy this summer season.
Aaron Mayville is the district ranger for the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger District.