Forest Service approves Buffalo Pass trails project
Steamboat Springs — Trail builders who have spent years dreaming up plans for a new trail system on Buffalo Pass got the news this week that they’ve been waiting so long to hear:
It’s time to get out the saws, rev up the heavy machinery and start building.
“They are mobilizing, and we hope to have the equipment up there soon, hopefully by the end of the week,” Routt County Riders board member Eric Meyer said. “It’s been a really long time coming. Even the wait this summer was brutal.”
An objection to the trails project from two residents and a Front Range environmentalist delayed the work for several weeks, but U.S. Forest Service officials said the concerns the petitioners raised will ultimately make for a better project.
To appease the concerns, one of the proposed trails was rerouted away from wetlands.
The U.S. Forest Service gave final approval to the project Tuesday.
The project will add 30 miles of new trails to the Buffalo Pass area northeast of Steamboat Springs.
An additional eight miles of trails that were built illegally in the National Forest will be improved and officially added to the trail system.
And about five miles worth of illegally built trails will be decommissioned and rehabilitated.
“We’re optimistic the public is going to be impressed with the work, and hopefully, we exceed the expectations,” Meyer said.
The new trails are being developed for cyclists, hikers, equestrians and off-road vehicle enthusiasts.
The visionaries behind the project predict it will give outdoor recreationists a new trail system to explore in a rugged and picturesque portion of Northwest Colorado.
Meyer said crews will work as fast as they can before the snow flies to make up for the building time crews lost this summer.
“What you’re going to see happen this fall, is a really smooth operation where they get a lot done in a short period of time,” Meyer said.
He said hand crews will likely focus on making improvements to the BTR and Grouse trails, while the trail-building machine would work on a new uphill trail.
Forest Service officials said the project will not impact the Forest Service’s nimble budget thanks to private funding from the city’s lodging tax fund and commitments for trail maintenance from volunteers.
In the future, an adopt-a-trail program could also be used to allow local businesses to help maintain the trail system.
Hahn’s Peak Ranger District recreation program manager Kent Foster said he plans to go up Buff Pass on Thursday to review some trail alignments.
Work will commence shortly.
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The National Weather Service in Grand Junction has issued a winter storm warning for much of the West Slope ahead of a major weather system expected in the area starting Thursday.