Trail users must respect closures of old routes
EAGLE COUNTY ” Numerous trees laying across local trails can mean one of two things: high winds or a marked closure.
Trail users should take special heed of the latter and stay off the trail.
“You can usually tell the difference (between a trail closure) and a fresh blow down across the trail,” said Dawes Wilson of Trail Action Group (TAG), a nonprofit organization that builds and maintains local trails. “Rocks placed across a trail are a dead giveaway because they don’t get there naturally.”
Trail Action Group collaborates with the Forest Service to close trails when they have been damaged to the point of dangerous erosion, instead rerouting them to a nearby location. The damaged trail is often characterized by cracks and trenches, none of which make for enjoyable mountain biking, hiking or horseback riding.
“That same trench that people don’t like to ride in or walk in is a drainage path that accelerates and cuts an erosion ditch right down the fall line of an area,” Wilson said. “It disturbs the soil, removes the top soil and washes all the debris into streams and creeks. It causes reduction of water quality and carves up the landscape.”
When such trenches are formed, TAG takes action. Closed trails can be recognized by the rocks, trees and logs placed across them.
“It has a double purpose of letting people know the route is closed and to anchor the soil and slow down the erosion so the vegetation can re-establish itself,” Wilson said.
Wilson said some local trail users have been ignoring the closures, even going to the point of removing the dead trees, logs and rocks placed on the trail. The worst case is on the old Two Elk Trail at the top of Benchmark on Vail Mountain, which was rerouted to the top of the Poma lift on the Two Elk Connector three summers ago.
The Two-Elk split
“On (the old) Two Elk Trail, there are three trenches, all knee-deep,” Wilson said. “If erosion happens on a trail at a steep gradient, it forms sort of a creek bed. It would be tolerable if people kept using that same line. But they move 3 feet to the side of it and make another trench, then 3 feet to the other side. It’s not a wise practice. It’s ugly. It’s harmful. And it destroys vegetation and puts a lot of sediment into the waterways.”
Wilson said ATV users have been doing the same on old Whiskey Creek Trail on Meadow Mountain, a trail rerouted five years ago.
“Sometimes when we do our best to reroute a trail and try to eradicate the old trail, people persist in using the old line,” Wilson said. “Sometimes they don’t know any better. Other times, it’s willful disobedience.”
Trail users who come across a blown-down tree on a trail should do their best to stay on the trail, stepping over the tree rather than walking around it, which can wear a new path into the trail. If trail users find trees that have naturally fallen on trails, they can contact the Forest Service or Wilson at 476-1914 or email@example.com, to have them removed.
Sports Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 748-2936 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Giving back to the trails
Trail Action Group (TAG) is conducting its next trail maintenance day Saturday at Booth Creek Trail in East Vail. Those interested in helping should meet at 9 a.m. at the Booth Creek trailhead, bringing long pants, work boots, gloves, rain gear, sunscreen, snacks and plenty of water. Lunch, tools and crew leaders are provided. For more information, call Dawes Wilson at 970-476-1914, or e-mail email@example.com.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.