Opening Park County Trails and Keeping Them Opened!


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URGENT Call to Action


News Release: September 19, 2019


Pike and San Isabel National Forest Officials Release Draft of
Environmental Impact Statement for Public Motor Vehicle Use

Forest officials aim to continue working with all citizens to designate a motor vehicle
use system within the Forests that balances the needs of forest users with protecting the land


PUEBLO, Colo., September 19, 2019 — Officials from the Pike and San Isabel National Forests and Comanche and Cimarron National Grasslands (PSICC) today released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for public motor vehicle use. The Notice of Availability will publish in the Federal Register on September 20, 2019, initiating the formal 45-day public comment period that ends November 4, 2019.

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement is part of the 2005 Travel Management Rule, requiring National Forests and Grasslands to designate roads, trails and areas that are open for motorized use. It offers five alternatives for a system of designated roads, trails and areas by class of vehicle and season of use. The alternatives reflect input from forest users, partners, and state and local governments.

“Feedback on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement will help strengthen our analysis,” said Forest and Grassland Supervisor Diana Trujillo. “Hearing the voices of various forest users is extremely important to us. Our goal is to designate a motorized system that works for the public while caring for natural and cultural resources.”

The Alternatives
The alternatives address a range of concerns about resource impacts from motor vehicle use, reduced motorized access, and potential conflicts between motorized and non-motorized users. The five alternatives are summarized below.

Alternative A
Public Motorized Routes Prior to Settlement,
is the Forest’s public motorized route system prior to the November 2015 settlement agreement.

Alternative B
Settlement Action Proposal,
removes all roads and trails not previously analyzed as identified in the November 2015 settlement agreement. Alternative B reduces the Pike and San Isabel National Forest’s motorized network by 34 percent.

Alternative C
Proposed Action,
emphasizes a safe and environmentally sound system of roads, trails and areas that allows for existing forest uses and access to private property. It decreases roads open to motor vehicle use by just under 11 percent and increases trails open by almost 22 percent. The 4 percent overall reduction in roads and trails specified under the proposed action aims to reasonably address and balance the expressed concerns of motorized users, non-motorized users and environmental groups.

Alternative D
Motorized-Recreation-Focused Proposal,
emphasizes public motor vehicle use and recreation. This alternative combines parts of Alternative C with motorized routes proposed during public scoping. It proposes new motorized areas. Alternative D decreases motorized access by about 3 percent overall.

Alternative E
Non-Motorized-Recreation-Focused Proposal,
emphasizes natural resource protection, habitat quality and non-motorized recreation while providing the least amount of public motor vehicle access across the forest. Alternative E decreases motorized access by just over 50 percent overall. The Travel Management Rule exempts the following from designation: aircraft, watercraft, and over-snow vehicles; use by the military, law enforcement, firefighters, and Forest Service for administrative activities; permitted special uses, such as livestock grazing, mining, logging, and collecting fuelwood, Christmas trees and other forest products; and access to pipeline and utility corridors, as well as access to private land.

Forest officials will host four meetings for the public
to review the alternatives, ask questions and
learn how to submit comments.

Please attend a meeting listed below.



Salida
Date:
Oct. 8, 2019
Time: 6:00 PM-7:30 PM
Salida Steamplant
220 West Sackett
Salida, CO 81201


Pueblo
Date:
Oct. 9, 2019
Time: 6:00 PM-7:30 PM
Pueblo Community College
900 W. Orman Ave. Student Center, Room 234
Pueblo, CO 81004


Denver
Date:
Oct. 10, 2019
Time: 6:00 PM-7:30 PM
MindSpark Learning, West Room
455 South Pierce Street Lakewood, CO 80226


Colorado Springs
Date:
Oct. 11, 2019
Time: 6:00 PM-7:30 PM
S4 Inc. Center For Excellence 1925 Aerotech Drive
Colorado Springs, Colorado 80916


Written comments must be submitted in person,
through the online comment portal, or mailed to:



John Dow, PSICC Forest Planner
Travel Management
2840 Kachina Drive,
Pueblo, CO, 81008



Comments, including the names and addresses of respondents, will be part of the public record. Anonymous comments will be accepted and considered, but those submitting comments anonymously will not have standing to object to the final decision. Only those who commented during this process will be eligible to object the final decision. Comments should be clear and specific to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and must be submitted by November 4, 2019.

After considering the comments submitted, Forest officials will prepare a Final Environmental Impact Statement and designate a system of roads, trails and areas open for motor vehicle use by class of vehicle and season of use. The decision is expected to publish in the Federal Register in November of 2020.

Six new motor vehicle use maps will be published for the Pike and San Isabel National Forests. These new maps will complement the two that already exist for the Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands. All will be available free of charge.

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement can be found at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=48214 under the “Analysis” tab.

Media Contact: Julie Bain
(719) 553-1415 julie.bain@usda.gov



Below are some talking points for your consideration.

• The four-wheel-drive roads in Wildcat Canyon (aka The Gulches) have historically been some of the most highly valued motorized routes in the Pike National Forest, providing multiple full-size loop routes with spectacular scenery and access to a remote portion of the South Platte River. They are open all year and close to the Front Range making them popular spring and fall destinations for four-wheel-drive clubs.

• The Park County portions of FS 220 Hackett Gulch, FS 220.A Crossover, FS 220.B Widow Maker, FS 221 Longwater Gulch, and FS 540 Corral Creek have been closed since the Hayman Fire in 2002.

• In 2004 the Forest Service conducted an environmental analysis and concluded the benefits of reopening these roads outweigh the environmental risks.

• The Forest Service attempted to evade responsibility for these roads by granting counties easements and making the counties responsible for maintenance.

• Only Teller County obtained an easement and took over jurisdiction of its portions of the roads, which were reopened by 2009. Park County’s easement application was lost twice and then Park County decided it was no longer interested in managing its portions of the roads (reaffirmed in an April 2019 press release).

• The closed Park County roads are stuck in limbo in Maintenance Level 1 (ML1) status. The Forest Service has abdicated its responsibility to manage them or enforce the closures, resulting in widespread illegal use and road deterioration.

• The currently open portions of Hackett, Longwater, and Metberry Gulch are heavily used and are restricted to use only as out-and-back trails, increasing congestion, user conflicts, and resource damage.

• The current situation is unsustainable. The Forest Service must take responsibility for managing these roads and make a final decision on their status.

• The range of alternatives in the DEIS is inadequate with respect to the Wildcat Canyon area, as none of the alternatives fully reopens all of the Park County roads or allows full-size vehicles to complete the Hackett to Longwater or South Hackett to Sportsman loops. Some alternatives close half of Metberry.

• The Forest Service should modify at least one alternative (preferably Alternative C) to fully reopen FS 220, 220.A, 220.B, 540, and 221 as trails open to all vehicles, while keeping FS 205, 897, and 202 open as well.

• The 2015 Travel Analysis reports improperly classified all of these roads except lower Corral Creek and Longwater as having low recreational value merely because of their current ML1 status, ignoring their historical extremely high value for their recreational experience.

• The DEIS management recommendations for roads with high recreational value and high watershed risk are harden water crossings and convert to trails open to all vehicles. This is the best management recommendation for these roads.

• Designating these roads as trails open to all vehicles would relax engineering standards and allow four-wheel-drive clubs to maintain them using grant money from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife OHV fund.

• The Forest Service previously found that reopening these roads with regular maintenance would decrease overall environmental impacts including sedimentation and water quality in the rivers and harm to fish. Erosion concerns could be mitigated with maintenance.

• If water crossings are proven to cause harm, the Forest Service should investigate installing engineered low water crossing structures or bridges.

• Increased motorized recreation in the area would not threaten Scenic status for the Platte River under the Wild and Scenic River study. Just closing roads would not make the river eligible for Wild status, as the 2A management classification for the Wildcat Canyon area already precludes Wild status. That would require a Forest Plan amendment to change.

• Slow recovery of vegetation in Wildcat Canyon and continued impaired water quality is not caused by OHVs and should not preclude reopening trails.

• The introduction of bighorn sheep is not a changed condition that should preclude reopening roads, as bighorn sheep can coexist with roads and 4WD trails have a minimal effect on them.

• The Forest Plan’s 2A management designation for the area with emphasis on motorized recreation makes Wildcat Canyon unsuitable for quiet use recreation.

• Closing motorized trails to convert them to hiking trails is unfair to motorized recreationists and contrary to the spirit of the Travel Management Rule, which recognizes motorized recreation as a legitimate use of National Forest land.

• The nearby Lost Creek Wilderness offers a far superior quiet use experience. Those seeking to hike in the area should go there rather than demanding motorized trails in Wildcat Canyon be closed in order to give them exclusive access.






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Important Update: March 28, 2019
Various meetings have taken place but the trails remain closed to motorized vehicles. The environmental assessment study for the Pike San Isabel (PSI) lawsuit has been completed and is due out soon. It will be the LAST chance to comment and request that these trails be re-opened.

Unless we obtain the backing from the Park County Commissioners, the trails will remain closed indefinitely. The Park County Commissioners are the key to getting these trails reopened for motorized vehicle use. If you want to see these trails opened it’s critical that you take action now and contact the Park County Commissioners to ask for their support.

Contact the Park County commissioners office and request that they adopt the Park County trails so they can remain opened to motorized vehicles.

Write to:
Park County Commissioners Office
PO Box 1373

Fairplay, CO 80440

Phone: 719-836-2771

Fax: 719-836-3273





Trails in Wildcat Canyon

The trails in the Wildcat Canyon have continued to deteriorate at a disturbing rate. This is not good news for 4-wheel drive enthusiasts.

The Pike San Isabel lawsuit is still in progress. Even though there are organizations that support our concerns and are on top of the situation; the Forest Service has conducted closed-door meetings with anti-access groups. The Trail Preservation Alliance and COHVCO have notified the Forest Service that these exclusive closed-door meetings may be violating the law.

The Forest Service allowed motorists use of the trails but unfortunately motorists are also using the closed trails and the Forest Service does not have the resources to stop them.

Volunteers in the motorized community have offered to help with the trail maintenance but the Forest Service has declined their offers.

The Forest Service said there is too much sediment run off at the river. They haven't had the funding to find the true cause so they decided to close the trails to motorized vehicles, even though the actual cause could be attributed to bikers, hikers, environmental issues, animals and weather conditions.

Adding markers to help keep users on the trails and placing a sign at the river with guidelines on the proper use of the area could provide additional guidance for users who might be unaware of the concerns. The Forest Service acknowledges that educating users is the best answer to protecting public lands but they have dismissed requests to add these markers that would help make Wildcat Canyon a self-guided educational classroom.

Proper use of the trails
Over the years, 4-wheel drive groups adopted these trails, maintained them at their own expense and guided others in the proper use of the trails.

We can all help educate users why these areas are unique and how to properly use the trails in public lands so the trails can be opened and enjoyed by the motorized community.

Here are some suggestions on how you can help:
• Don't drive on the closed trails.
• Teller Country trails are open because Teller County adopted those trails and allowed motorized vehicles access to those trails.
• Support the businesses in Teller County which support motorized recreation.
• Contact Teller County commissioners and thank them for supporting motorized vehicles in public lands.

www.co.teller.co.us

Write to:
Teller County Commissioners Office
PO Box 959

Cripple Creek, CO 80813

Phone: 719.689.2988
Fax: 719.686.7900


• Contact the Park County commissioners office and request that they adopt the Park County trails so they can remain opened to motorized vehicles.

Write to:
Park County Commissioners Office
PO Box 1373

Fairplay, CO 80440

Phone: 719-836-2771

Fax: 719-836-3273


• If you vote in Park County, contact the Park County commissioners to share your concerns about trail closures in the Wildcat Canyon and ask the commissioners for their support.
• If you see anyone not respecting public lands take a minute to educate them.
• Guide users to visit websites such as “Stay the trail in Colorado” to learn proper use of motorized vehicles on trails.
www.staythetrail.org
• Offer to take new users on a trail ride to show them proper respect and use of public lands.
• Support organizations such as the Trail Preservation Alliance www.coloradotpa.org and COHVCO www.cohvco.org. Both of these local organizations are supporting the use of motorized vehicle in public lands.
• Support organizations such as Blue Ribbon Coalition (Share Trails) www.sharetrails.org which is supporting the use of motorized vehicles in public lands on a national level.

Now is your chance to take action to do more. Support these organizations and contact the representatives to voice your concerns.



TRAIL STATUS
Teller County:

June 25, 2017
We received several calls from concerned users about the abandoned 2008 Chevrolet left on the trails. We contacted Park County and the Forest Service and were able to remove the abandoned vehicle with the help of volunteers.

Forest Service 540 is still closed. Longwater is still closed at the county line. The Forest Service opened Hackett Forest Service 220 to the river and currently has no plans to close it.

Be aware that burnt trees are rotting, falling and blocking the trails in certain areas. Be prepared and equipped to remove fallen trees from the trails. Please do not drive around them or create short cuts. The trails are open with the cooperation of Teller County. Staying on the trails is critical to keeping them open.


TRAIL STATUS
Teller County:

March 23, 2017
The trails remain closed at the Teller County line. The trails include: Longwater Gulch FS 221, Hackett Crossover FS 220A, Corral Creek FS 540 trails. Metberry FS 205 is open to the Platte River. Hackett FS 220 was opened by the Forest Service, but keep in mind there is not a maintenance agreement for Park County, so the trails may be more hazardous in Park County.

August 25, 2016
The Forest Service meeting was held on August 25, 2016. The purpose of the meeting was to speak out so the trails at Wildcat Canyon (the Gulches) could be fully opened to four wheel enthusiasts
We asked four wheel enthusiasts to get behind our effort to open the trails by spreading the word to friends, neighbors and colleagues to join us at the Forest Service meeting to show your support. A BIG turnout by local and vocal residents was vital to ensure the future of the Canyon. More than 100 people attended.

Why it mattered to attend:
1. Park County submitted an easement request twice because prior requests were lost.
2. The area has been maintained mostly by user groups for the past 25 years.
3. User groups have demonstrated how much they value this area by keeping it well maintained - often at their own expense!
4. Volunteer involvement in the area has been very high and will continue to be high if we care enough to voice our concerns.

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May 26, 2015
Over the last several weeks Colorado has experienced a large amount of rain; as a result, the trails can be unpredictable. Trees can often fall across the trials and washouts can occur. As always, be prepared to cut trees that may have fallen down and block the trail. Trail maintenance will be planned after the rains subside in the coming weeks.
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May 6, 2015 - Please stay on the trails and respect any side route closures. A number of the trails remain closed.
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June 2, 2014

The Forest Service has listed FS220 on the Federal Registry as open. So for now, Hackett Gulch is open all the way to the river. The Forest Service didn't intend to open this trail, they actually intended to open only the ATV trail. As a result, they must now go through normal channels to close it again. Closing the trail may happen at any time. We will post updates as soon as we receive news of the progress on these trails.
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February 6, 2014

Park County has decided to resubmit their application for the trails in Park County with the intent that doing so will speed up the process. They are resubmitting the application with a cover letter which explains the application was first submitted in 2010 and it was lost by the Forest Service. Their desire is that by taking additional action steps, it will give this project the priority it deserves.
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October 13, 2013

We wanted to keep you updated and informed on the status of the trail openings. The trails are there for all to enjoy. Through your continued support and interest, more trails are in the process of being opened.


TRAIL STATUS
Teller County:

- The trails in Teller County are now open for your enjoyment. Please stay on the trails and respect any side route closures.

Park County:
- Trails in Park County have been closed since the Haymen fire in 2002. They remain closed as of October 2013. We have had many meetings with various Park County Commissioners. Park County has agreed to adopt these trails from the Forest Service.

Park County's application had been lost by the Forest Service; however, progress is being made to find that application and move it forward. Once found and accepted, another meeting with Park County will take place to confirm adoption. Work will need to be done to bring these trails up to par before they are opened to the public. Please respect their closures while the process plays out. We will update the website as progress is made and we will let you know when volunteers are needed to do any work to open the remaining trails.


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August 1, 2013

Subject: Results of the meeting with Predator 4WD, Teller County and the Forest Service
that took place on July 15, 2013.

Predator 4WD is continuing to work with Teller County and the Forest Service to keep the trails open and we will keep you updated on the status of these trail openings.


TRAIL STATUS
Metberry Trail:

- Metberry remains open to the Platte River and the trail is in good condition.
- There is one unauthorized route that will be closed at the bottom of Chicken Scratch hill.

Hacket Trail:
- Hacket is closed at the Teller County Line.
- The gate has been taken down at the Hackett/Teller County line, but the trail below remains closed and tickets can be issued for violations.

Longwater Trail:
- Longwater is closed at the Teller County Line.
- Longwater's water bars are washed out because of the recent rains, which is making the trail a bit more challenging.

We encourage you to follow the forest service guidelines and stay on the trails. Teller County acknowledged that they are pleased with the respect that users show on the trail system. By observing their requests and staying on the trails, we can all look forward to enjoying our adventures and our time on these great trails.


Are You Interested in Helping to Keep the Trails Open?
Predator 4WD, LLC continues to work with Teller County and the Forest Service to open the Park County Trails. Those interested in helping can join and/or contribute to COHVCO under the S.O.S. program. Individuals can purchase a S.O.S sticker at Predator 4WD or on line at http://www.cohvco.org/

The funds will be used for opening the trails and keeping the trails opened. Even if you’re already a member of COHVCO, buying a sticker helps the legal defense funding.

To be added to a volunteer email list, please email jerry@predator4wd.com with the subject of "Volunteer" and we will add you to the volunteer email. Thank you for your continued support!
























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