CCW (Finally) Get Green Light from USFS
In a bureaucratic timeline that was stretched out to the point of nearly costing Lake County the very grant monies available to make the project even possible, the US Forest Service (USFS) finally announced its decision regarding the Turquoise Lake Trails last week.
“New trails are in the future for the #LeadvilleRD!” wrote the USFS on its – PSICC National Forest Facebook Page last Thursday, October 18. “The Forest Service today signed the decision memo for the Turquoise Lake Trails project. Work on the new trails is expected to start in fall 2019 (weather dependent) and continue through 2020.”
So as the snow stacks up on a late fall Sunday, Leadville Today is here to break down the specifics concerning the new trails, from the details on design and location, to the good news for local users, to what Lake County trail-lovers can do to support these projects and partnerships. It’s some #HappyTrails news for a snowy #SundayFunday.
Turquoise Lake Trails
The new Turquoise Lake Trails (TLT) system will be built by the Cloud City Wheelers, a Lake County non-profit organization comprised of a devoted group of cyclists who saw the need for an organized voice in the community. Part of their mission involves trail building and maintenance, as well as promoting new and existing trails as an economic driver in Lake County.
The Wheelers have been around since 2007 and have a proven track record of seeing projects to completion. In fact, their efforts for the new TLT began way back in 2014 when the bike club began the process of developing a non-motorized trail system at Turquoise Lake, a popular recreation area managed by the USFS and located 8 miles from the heart of downtown Leadville.
“It brings me great pleasure to report that our Turquoise Lake Trails plan was accepted by the USFS Leadville Ranger District yesterday on October 15th,” stated Sterling Mudge, President of the CCW and the driving force behind the project. “Five years in the making, 2 years of planning, multiple designs [some with trees, and now without], we are now on our way to building 8 miles of trail in an area prime for a reboot after the recent tree clearing project.”
Mudge is referring to – what many consider – the unexpected slash-job of hundreds of trees around Turquoise Lake in the fall 2018 which was promoted as a USFS mitigation project. For many local residents, it was a stark reminder that a large percent of the open space in Lake County that they regularly enjoy is regulated and managed by three dominate federal agencies: the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the USFS.
According to USFS officials, the new non-motorized trails would be built to their standards for mountain bike trails and would be built by hand and/or with a mini-excavator tracked machine. Approximately 9.9 miles of new trail construction will provide mountain bikers and other recreationists access to trails that connect from Leadville to National Forest System lands. The trail system will provide an added amenity to hikers, trail runners, and mountain bikers camping at any of the nine USFS campgrounds around Turquoise Lake. A portion of this trail system will also provide an accessible recreational opportunity for those using hand-powered cycles on the trail. Some cutting of tree limbs may occur, however, no additional tree removal is expected as a portion of the project area was recently logged.
More specific details provide that approximately 8.3 miles of trail will be built with a tread width of 18”-24” while the 1.6 miles of trail connecting to the Turquoise Lake Nature Trail would be built with a 36”-42” tread to accommodate handcycles. All trails are multi-directional except for the .6 mile uphill and .6 mile downhill designated sections originating from Leadville Junction. And it’s those last two words that will make it sweet for all users, but particularly for locals.
It’s FREE, You See!
While trail work is generally good news for recreationalists, the even better news for local users is that the newly developed Turquoise Lake Trails will be free to use, according to Mudge. Yes, after years of Lake County residents being subjected to day-use fees instituted and enforced regularly by the USFS to go hiking and biking in their own backyard, these new trails will be considered to be outside the pay-to-play perimeter of the recreation area and therefore will be FREE to use. It was a fact that LT wanted to get facilitators on-the-record about.
“The trailhead will be outside of the Recreation area at the Leadville Junction parking area,” responded Mudge to an email inquiry from LT. It was a fact that was later confirmed by USFS Leadville (Acting) Ranger Erich Roeber. “This was done on purpose to not require day-use fees for the trails and the fact that there are existing pit toilets in the area.”
Perfect! So while the main trailhead for the system will be located on county land in the area known as Leadville Junction – an ode to the old railroad days – many of the trails will provide access to Turquoise Lake by way of the TLT or the already established Nature Trail. Trail signs and directional maps will be located throughout the trail system at key locations.
For now, Mudge reported to Leadville Today that depending on weather conditions, the CCW will start the work immediately on the northernmost trail beginning to remove the slash and tree debris left behind. The plan is to clear the trail corridor this fall and to start moving dirt next spring.
In addition, Mudge relayed that “we plan to work with the county to fix up the toilets (at Leadville Junction parking area) as needed and to construct some changing stations to encourage people not to strip down and change in the parking lot.”
The Wheelers’ solid leadership on the project already has the funding in place to hit the ground running next spring and with the help of a grant from Freeport McMoran will hire 6 trail crew members to construct these trails throughout the summer 2019.
If you’re interested in that work or perhaps rolling up your sleeves as a volunteer stay connected at the Wheelers website. Another way to support their work and dedication is through a membership. It’s only $39/year and will keep you posted on what’s happening with trails in Lake County as well as races and other social events. Or if you just want to donate one time, you can do that as well, HERE.
Update: Motoring in the Woods
Here’s a follow-up to a Leadville Today post concerning the US Forest Service (USFS) upcoming meetings concerning their “travel management” plan which will ultimately designate the roads, trails, and other forest-managed areas to either remain as they are, or change when it comes to motorized use and access. Earlier this month, officials from the Pike and San Isabel National Forests and Comanche and Cimarron National Grasslands (PSICC) released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for public motor vehicle use, initiating the formal 45-day public comment period that ends November 4, 2019.
Since then, the Decker Wildfire has refocused the USFS’s efforts to firefighting and public safety especially in Salida, a community that has been deeply impacted by the incident. And while the original “travel management plan” meetings have been rescheduled since the original report, requests for the USFS to extend the comment period have been denied. The NEW MEETING DATE for the PSI Travel Management Denver public meeting is this Thursday, Oct. 24, from 6 – 7:30 p.m. The meeting will be held in the MT. Zirkel room on the main level at the USFS Regional Office located at 1617 Cole Blvd, Building 17 in Lakewood. Any questions may be directed to John Dow, PSICC Forest Planner, 719-350-5311, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Details and Links
To that end, while it may not be relevant to ALL readers, for those with personal or business interests, here’s the USFS’s official word, distributed to media outlets last week:
“The PSICC heard your requests for specialist reports, project GIS data and public meeting boards. In response, the Forests uploaded all specialist reports and public meeting boards to our internal PALs database and provided a GIS data link. The specialist reports are available at this link: The reports are located under the Analysis tab beneath the PSIMVUMDraftEIS Volume2 AppC bullet. See PALsScreenSpecialistRpts to better understand how they are assembled on the webpage. The BA and BE are found under the Botany, Wildlife and Fish bullets.
Please read the PSI Specialist Report Addendum Final for an explanation of changes between the original Alternative C specialist reports analysis and the revised DEIS Alternative C analysis.
The PSICC posted the public meeting boards to the same site. Here you will find the Forest Plan Amendment mapping information requested. The meeting boards are located under the Analysis Tab beneath the Draft Environmental Impact Statement bullet. See Public Meeting Boards to help your webpage navigation.
Finally, the PSICC provided project GIS data. The information is divided into 2 types; geo databases and shapefiles. If you have ArcGIS 10.6.1 you can download and manipulate the geo databases, otherwise, use the shapefiles for viewing the data. Those files are available HERE.