Vail Daily letter: Thoughts on trails in Vail
Ladies, gentlemen of the Study Committee and Town Council:
Because I was assisting Dr. Steinberg at the first open house, I had little time to speak with others or personally use the comment forms. My sincere thanks to all for giving the community these opportunities to participate in the planning process at this starting point of deliberations and decision-making. I am especially grateful to Gregg Barrie for walking me through the East Vail area where some of the proposed trails are located, and then Dec. 28 for sitting with Dr. Steinberg to discuss the parcels and their possible uses, who understandably cares very deeply about the possible uses.
My own comments at present are as follows.
1. Build workforce housing wherever it is economically and environmentally possible. These spots are few enough but could offer some relief to a major problem.
2. Do not waste time and money on purchase of parcels that do not fit these criteria, unless it would protect our threatened watershed.
3. Under no circumstances develop trails in “open lands” that currently ensure healthy wildlife, or are home to our highly specialized native species, including our fragile plants, fish, amphibians, birds and mammals. I am aghast that the conceptual mountain bike trail on the north side of the Booth Creek area is proposed to encroach on the shelf used by bighorns and even mountain goats as a nursery and respite area in snow months. I am also upset that the south valley trail would run above the Memorial Park just below the historical and current peregrine nest site (which I monitor annually). This would highly likely drive the birds away. It seems also insensitive to encourage aggressive bike use so near the Memorial Park.
4. Do engage professionals to produce a Biodiversity Study of these areas, as Pitkin County has done, before any decisions on development. Vail’s goal of a sustainable community demands this. Our tourism culture based demands it.
5. Since living in California in the ’80s and hiking frequently in Marin County, I have followed efforts to make trails compatible to both mountain bikers and hikers. They are still a source of conflict despite best efforts. In Tucson this last winter I again witnessed open hostility between morning walkers and bikers on popular trails. During my own hikes in West Vail, especially if I venture onto the North Trail during summer and fall months, and even occasionally on the Buffehr Trail extension used by so many walkers, I am forced to jump into bushes or cling to crumbling hillsides. No biker has ever yielded to me on a trail, though surprise and speed has sometimes led to falls by both of us. I do not believe these two user groups can ever be truly compatible. On the other hand, East Vail’s asphalt trails are a huge success, wide enough for rules of the road to prevail, as well as mutual respect by almost all users. Soft trails are a different matter. Please don’t kid yourselves.
In appreciation for all your effort,