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News: Features & Opinions Archive (2015)

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Date: May 2015

Trails Talk (May 2015)

Open Space held their Second Trails Talk program at the Mountaineering Center April 29. Trails Talks are planned for the spring and fall of each year to make the public aware of the trails activities and to obtain feedback from the public. About 40 public and 15 staff were present.

Tom Hoby, Open Space Director, announced that JCOS has started using the Twitter blog #jeffcotrails as a means of communicating trail conditions. The Twitter blog allows trail users to report their observations of trail conditions on the web where others can access them. Significant closures will still be posted on the Open Space Website, but the Twitter blog will allow for instantaneous communication.

Open Space with funding from the Jeffco Outdoors Foundation is preparing a series of eight regional trail maps that will include all trails, recreational facilities, parking areas, and much additional information within each region. The goal is to have all eight maps available by the fall Trails Talk program. The printing cost of the maps will be supported by advertising and donations; they will be available at no cost to the public.

Hoby also mentioned that JCOS' first priority was taking care of what we already have and increasing volunteer stewardship of the trails. The Friends of Apex put in about 600 hours last year in repairing flood damage to Apex trails and have committed this year to continuing the work, especially in some areas on the Pick and Sledge trail that are subject to erosion.

The above items are implementations of goals presented in the 2014 Master Plan. The 2011 Citizen Survey indicated the desire to have equal weighted priorities for preservation and recreation.

Dave Davenport, Outdoor Recreation Coordinator, discussed the development of difficulty ratings for each of the trails. The trails will have an over-all rating and each trail intersection will indicate the rating for the next section of trail. The ratings are:

Least Difficult

More Difficult

Most Difficult

Typically the Least Difficult trails will have average grades of less than 3% and elevation gains minus losses of 100 feet. The More Difficult trails will have grades of less than 10% and elevation gains minus losses of less than 1000 feet. The Most Difficult trails will have grades greater than 10% and elevations gains minus losses greater than 1000 feet. These trail ratings will help bikers and equestrians, especially, gauge the difficulty of a trail before starting off and possibly finding themselves in trouble mid-trail.

At present Jeffco has 87 miles of Least Difficult, 115 miles of More Difficult, and 27 miles of Most Difficult. As new signs are placed on the trails they will indicate the difficulty: a green circle for Least Difficult, a blue square for More Difficult, and a black diamond for Most Difficult.

Kim Frederick, Trails Services Superintendent, discussed the Annual Trails Assessment made at the beginning of each year. The assessment then is used to set the maintenance priorities for the year. Since Jeffco has three types of trail surfaces the assessment basis varies for each type: Natural Surface, Crusher Fines Surface, and Concrete Surface.

Trails in good condition and expected to remain in good condition are scheduled only for routine maintenance. Trails in fair condition probably will require some corrective action to stabilize the trail condition in order to deter further degradation. Trails in priority condition need major attention because of impacts to the natural resource and the recreational experience. It may be necessary to close these trails until stabilization work has been completed. This year 85% of the trail mileage was in good condition, 13% was in fair condition, and only 2% was in priority condition requiring prompt attention.

Volunteer assistance is appreciated for all levels of maintenance. To volunteer, go to http://jef fco.us/open-space/volunteer/, or call Jana Johns, Volunteer Services Administrator, at 303-271-5922."

Mary Ann Bonnell, Visitor Services Superintendent, discussed the changes in Designated Use Trails that will be effective May 15, 2015. These changes are an outcome of feedback from the 2014 Trails Talk attendees. Open Space had 33 trails with designated uses with the goal of improving visitor safety and their experience. The designated uses were: Hiker Only, Bike Only, Alternate Day Use, Multiple Use, Hiker/Horse, No Dogs/Horses/Bikes, and Directional Use. When staff began their evaluation, the objective was to:

Improve Visitor Safety;

Enhance the Visitor Experience;

Reduce Confusion.

Outcomes were: 1) Centennial Cone - restrict horseback riding to weekdays and the non-biker weekend days to reduce the conflict with bikers traveling at faster speeds; 2) Deer Creek - horses will be allowed on the previously hiker-only trails; 3) Lair o' the Bear - remove the bikes/horses signage between the entry road and the restroom and also allow horses and dogs on the Creekside Loop; 4) Mount Falcon - allow horses on the Turkey Trot Trail and designate Parmalee and Tower Trails as multiple use; 5) South Valley - allow horses on the Swallow Trail.

Amy Ito, Planning and Stewardship Manager, discussed the new trails process, The 2014 Master Plan goal was a minimum of 25 miles of new trail by 2019. The implementation goals for new trails are to address the demand, enhance the experience, and focus on trails closer to homes. At present there are 25 miles of trail in the planning process; these are being studied for practicality, potential routing, and impact on the natural resource. There are 2 miles in detailed design. There are 17 miles presently under construction.

One question after the program was the potential for trails on Mt. Glennon, near the town of Morrison. Director Hoby said that Mt. Glennon was under natural resource study this year prior to potential route evaluations, but that a trail along the hogback from Alameda to Morrison probably would be completed first.

The evening ended with most of the audience discussing specifics with staff at the various stations set up to support the subject matter of the program.

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