Hay Park Area & Mountain Bike Trail Advocacy

RFMBA has focused on the Hay Park area over the past 12 years due to the tremendous beauty of the area, the quality of the riding for mountain bikers, and the challenges that come along with managing this particular area of public land. The Dinkle Lake / Thomas Lakes Trailhead provides access to not only the Hay Park Trail, but also to the Maroon Bells / Snowmass Wilderness area. This popular trailhead acts as a gateway for bike riders, hikers, runners, and equestrians to a lush meadow with views of Capitol Peak, one of Colorado’s most jagged and formidable 14er’s, to healthy stands of mature dark timber, to huge groves of aspen trees, and to the high alpine environment of the Roaring Fork Valley’s most omni-present high point, Mount Sopris.

We’ve been aware of the many routes in this area of the White River National Forest since our organization’s earliest days. RFMBA submitted comments during the WRNF’s Travel Management Plan process (in 2009, and in 2011) advocating that many of the existing routes should remain open to bikes. Unfortunately, our argument that these routes were historic, had been ridden by area mountain bikers for many years, provided important high value recreation opportunities, and that most importantly mechanized bicycle use was compatible with the area… did not succeed. Many of the routes were left out of the official route system in the final TMP decision documents. Following is some key language from our 2011 letter to the WRNF:

“RFMBA respects the WRNF’s multitude of decisions in coming to this Record of Decision, and we propose in this document to work with the WRNF to re-commission specific trails that are being decommissioned. We provide a catalog of trails that are being decommissioned that are in direct conflict with the mountain biking community’s current use patterns. In many cases these are trails that riders will continue to use, potentially unaware of the recent administrative closure. We respect that many trails have been appropriately decommissioned, but we must continue to disagree on certain details of this Travel Management Plan.”

“It is our hope that for existing routes that are being decommissioned, a NEPA process will not be required to reopen the trails for bicycle use. As mentioned above, many of these are well ridden trails. In some cases partial re-routes or trail maintenance may be required to achieve a fully sustainable route.”

2008 mapping analysis of the WRNF Draft TMP created by RFMBA, showing routes proposed to be decommissioned, but advocated to be open to bikes by RFMBA.
The WRNF’s 2011 Travel Management Plan decommissioned many routes in the Hay Park area. Red = decommission, Dashed Orange = open to bikes, Dashed Green = open to foot & horse only. Mt. Sopris is located within the Maroon Bells / Snowmass Wilderness (which does not allow for bike use).

Another early effort in the Hay Park Area for RFMBA was to advocate for boundary adjustments and creative solutions that would retain biking in the area in the face of the Hidden Gems proposal. The Hidden Gems, at an early stage of the campaign in 2009, proposed the entirety of this corner of the WRNF for inclusion as federally designated Wilderness, leaving only the Hay Park Trail as a “mechanized corridor” that would remain open to biking. While this campaign dissipated many years ago locally, it did evolve over time in Summit County and the nearby Thompson Divide area to become the Colorado Outdoor Recreation and Economy Act. RFMBA is in support of the CORE Act due to the many positive changes made over the years to the legislative proposal, changes that do provide clear benefits to the mountain bike community.

In late 2010 RFMBA proposed “H.G. 3.0”, a version of the proposal that would have been fully supported by mountain bikers while providing additional significant acreage of land protection through non-Wilderness ‘companion designations’.

Understanding that the historic routes closed through the TMP process were important and valuable to both local and visiting riders, RFMBA submitted a detailed proposal in 2013 to the White River National Forest to undertake a trail planning process for the Hay Park Area. The WRNF’s official response letter acknowledged “the proposal submitted offers a viable long term vision for an enhanced mountain bike system in the Hay Park area“, but that limited resources did not allow for immediate action on the proposal. While the proposal is now out of date, it’s still impressive in terms of the existing conditions detailed for the area, and the range of creative ideas proposed that would lead to more access for mountain bikers on more area trails.

In 2013 RFMBA proposed a trail planning process to address historic and future trails in the Hay Park area. If and when such an effort moves forward in the future, the WRNF anticipates some form of a cooperative process that takes into account “multiple different recreation user groups and forest uses outside of recreation”.

As RFMBA has grown in size and capability, we’ve been able to contribute more directly to stewardship of the area’s trails open to mountain bikers. In recent years our Trail Agents, acting as independent trained volunteers, have performed basic maintenance on the Hay Park Trail, clearing fallen trees and cutting back corridor where needed. For three summers in a row now, our Seasonal Trail Crew have used chainsaws and brush cutters to revitalize and maintain the wild Buzzard Basin Trail. In 2019 we partnered with the WRNF, Wilderness Workshop, and Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers to reroute a section of the Buzzard Basin Trail, ensuring this trail, which is open to bikes, remained just outside of the adjacent federally designated Wilderness. In 2020 we are partnering with WRNF, WW, and The Roaring Fork Valley Horse Council to restore the entrance to a non-system trail that leads into the Wilderness, while also further improving the quality of experience available on the Buzzard Basin Trail.

These recent advocacy efforts are always keeping in mind the bigger picture in the Hay Park Area. RFMBA continues to review the current status of trails in the area with WRNF staff and other partner organizations. We’ve been clear for many years that we believe that certain trails should be officially open to bikes in the future. We’ll keep working in that direction. In the meantime, thank you for supporting all of the work RFMBA is undertaking to find success and greater access for bikes in this beautiful area.

Trailforks.com shows the trails open to bikes as of 2020. Hay Park Trail shown with a blue line, Buzzard Basin Trail is shown with a black line. WRNF land is shown mostly with a light green overlay, while Mount Sopris is located within Wilderness which is indicated by the dark green overlay. Adjacent to the WRNF lands are some limited BLM lands (tan overlay), and private lands (white overlay).

Government and Nightmare Trail Closure Extended to June 28th

Snowmass area Seasonal Closures in Effect for Elk Calving

SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo. – The White River National Forest, Town of Snowmass Village, Aspen Skiing Company and Colorado Parks and Wildlife are working together to remind the public that critical elk calving occurs this time of year from Two Creeks to West Buttermilk. The annual closure and restrictions are in place currently and are in effect through late June. This year, the closure has been extended for one week in most of the area, including the Government Trail. Tom Blake, Sequel, and other trails in the Elk Camp and Two Creeks vicinity will be unaffected by this change. Trail users are advised to check the new restrictions before heading out.

“This annual closure gives cow elk solitude and free-range to raise their young,” stated Phil Nyland, Wildlife Biologist for the Forest Service. “Disturbance caused by humans and dogs is very stressful to elk giving birth and nursing calves. Disturbance may also lead elk to abandon their calves.”

Over the past five months, in coordination with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the White River National Forest conducted an evaluation of elk calving needs and solicited public comments regarding a proposal to change the historic closure for the area. The proposal did not include Tom Blake, Sequel, and other trails in the Elk Camp and Two Creeks vicinity where the restrictions would remain in place from April 25 through June 20.

“Our desire was to work with the community and partners to develop a closure that is science-based and has community support,” said Kevin Warner, Aspen-Sopris District Ranger.  “In doing so, we found common ground. Folks want to protect elk and their calves, and feel strongly that we should all do our part.”

Elk have chosen to return to the Two Creeks – West Buttermilk area every year because the area offers water, forage and the seclusion they need to survive, birth and nurse without being startled or disrupted.

“This closure protects elk during critical biological functions that ramp up late April and extend to the end of June, said Kurtis Tesch of Colorado Parks and Wildlife.  ”Since the local elk population is in decline and more information on factors affecting calf survival is several years away, a small increase in the time of restricted access is reasonable to allow mother elk and their calves to nurse, bond wean and become strong enough to join the herd.”

The proposal extended the closure time frame an additional week to allow late-birthing elk longer time to nurse and raise their newborn calves without disturbances that may cause elk to misplace or abandon calves, or injury to calves that struggle to keep up with their mothers. Comments in favor of extending the restricted period were received from 44 entities including partners such as Aspen Skiing Company, Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association, Roaring Fork Horse Council, Pitkin County, the Town of Snowmass Village, individual trail users, nearby residents and the public.

This proposal also provided an opportunity for the Forest Service to align its restriction timing with Town of Snowmass Village Ordinances where the federal and Town boundaries overlap.

The closure includes the following trails:

  • Tom Blake trail, Sequel trail and other trails in the Elk Camp and Two Creeks vicinity are closed April 25 through June 20.  These trails and the surrounding area open June 21.
  • Anaerobic Nightmare trail is closed April 25 through June 27. This trail and the surrounding area open June 28.
  • Government trail #1980 and Sugarbowl trail are closed May 15 through June 27.  These trails and the surrounding area open June 28.

Wildlife monitoring cameras have shown hikers, dog walkers, and cyclists recreating in the area illegally during the closure period. Violating the closure can result in a fine of up to $5,000 or 6 months in jail, punishable by Forest Service regulation. Violation of Town of Snowmass Village Ordinance also applies in Town limits.

Many other trails in the area are open during this time. Suggested alternative trails include the Highline/Lowline trails (open year round); Sky Mountain Park trails (open May 16); North Rim trail (opens May 16); South Rim trail (open year round); Ditch trail (open year round); Sam’s Knob and Alpine Springs trails; West Government trail; and Elk Camp work roads.

Comment on Proposed Rules for eMTBs on BLM trails by June 9!

Love ’em? Hate ’em? Never heard of ’em?

Good news, any above answer on eMTBs means it is important to participate in this comment period. Following up on last year’s Dept. of Interior Secretarial Order 3376, a Proposed Rule for managing e-bikes on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land is now open for public comment through June 9. Mountain bikers could be affected by this new rule more than any other user group. The BLM has long been a strong federal partner and values rider input, so let’s make sure our voices are heard and we shape this new rule well for mountain biking.

Pros of the proposed Rule: 
–Requires a local public process before allowing any eMTB access. 
–Distinguishes between class 1, class 2 and class 3 eMTBs. 
–Manages eMTBs separately from mountain bikes.

What could & should improve in the final Rule:
–Managing class 1, class 2 and class 3 eMTBs separately from each other.
–Prohibiting class 2 and class 3 eMTBs on natural surface non-motorized trails. 
-Revise any Rule language that carries a pre-decisional undertone. The BLM should point to NEPA as the required way of making revisions to travel management decisions. Local mountain bikers and stakeholders should play an important role in local decisions; local eMTB access should not be decided by the Dept. of Interior’s over-riding point of view.
–Clarify the timeline for required NEPA analysis as part of future planning processes. For some deep background details on this topic, take a look at IMBA’s analysis of the Proposed Rule. For more information on eMTBs, visit IMBA’s eMTB education page and IMBA’s eMTB FAQs.
Ready to submit a comment?

For this proposed rule you need to submit your individual comment using regulations.gov. (Rule reference number: RIN 1004-AE72.) The sample comment below is in line with IMBA’s eMTB position, which supports class 1 eMTB access as long as access for traditional mountain bikes is not lost or impeded. We always advocate for these decisions to be made via public process alongside local mountain bikers and all stakeholders. Customize the comment below—the second paragraph would be great to personalize—or craft your own comment following these tips.
Sample Comment:
 Thank you for the opportunity for the public to engage in the Bureau of Land Management’s “Increasing Recreational Opportunities through the Use of Electric Bikes”.

The mountain bike community is responsible for a large part of the natural surface trail infrastructure that exists today on our federal, state and local public lands. Hundreds of organized mountain bike clubs around the country manage thousands of volunteers who work closely with land managers on trail development, trail maintenance, and trail education for all users. Mountain bikers appreciate that the leap in technology presented by eMTBs is a unique management challenge. This proposed rule rightfully plans separate management for bicycles and electric bicycles. It is critical that land managers and local mountain bikers work together to determine where eMTBs are and are not appropriate on current and future mountain bike trails. The proposed rule includes an admirable planning process to achieve this, which could be made stronger by clarifying the timeline for NEPA analysis.

The final rule should be improved by following the International Mountain Bicycling Association’s management recommendations: managing the three classes of e-bikes separately from one another, and prohibiting class 2 and class 3 eMTBs on natural surface, non-motorized trails. This is to maintain the spirit of traditional mountain bicycling by ensuring pedal-assisted use, and maintaining reasonable speeds for the safety of all users.
Thank you for the willingness to engage with the mountain bike community.

Sincerely,
[name, location, contact information]
Thank you for taking action!

New opening dates for Coal Camp loops in South Canyon

The City of Glenwood Springs Parks and Recreation Commission has chosen to change the current wildlife closure dates for the upper and lower Coal Camp loops in South Canyon. The new dates are as follows:

  • Lower Coal Camp Loop will be closed Dec. 1 through April 30, open on May 1st.
  • The Upper Coal Camp Trail will be closed Dec. 1 through May 15, open on May 16. 

City of Glenwood Springs Parks and Recreation Commission warns users that the spring opening day may be delayed due to high snow or large numbers of elk in the area.