Grey Schuhmacher: Trails building process needs scrutiny
I am the owner of a vacation rental company and I am a trail user. I’m concerned about the lack of disclosure regarding the use of the 1 percent lodging tax and impediments to building trails with those funds.
A Steamboat Pilot article on Sept. 29 painted a rosy picture of “trails becoming reality” when in reality the work on the Grouse trail had been halted. A clarification article didn’t come until Nov. 30 but glossed over real problems.
From the Sept. 29 article: “Trail builders could not get started as early as they’d hoped due to a delay in the approval process.” From the Nov. 30 article: “while the trail was being constructed, USFS Ranger Chad Stewart suggested that there was some concern about how steep and technical the trail was … Stewart said he called a time-out on the project to work through the issues.”
Stopping work on the Grouse trail for this reason is inappropriate. Voters overwhelmingly approved the trail projects. They did so after a thorough public process, which included loads of information.
From a May 8, 2015, Pilot article titled “Forest Service seeks feedback on new Buffalo Pass trails,” Kent Foster with the USFS said, “We plan on keeping some of them gnarly and rough.” In addition to being challenging, some of the user-created trails have great rock features. “We want to keep those features in there,” he added.
We’ve had delays from approval processes and a halt to work on the Grouse trail. Why? Because someone thought it was too technical?
The public had their chance to review plans and provide feedback in the summer of 2015. Everyone should have been well aware of plans to have to have a variety of trails with different features.
Some will be ideal for climbing, others for descending. Some will be smooth, others will be rocky and technical. Some will be perfect for families or beginners, others need to challenge the very best bikers.
The review period for considering opinions has ended. The USFS response to any new concern about trail design should be something like: “We had a public review process. All trails are being built by professional trail building companies in compliance with stringent procedures and environmental requirements.”
If there is some other reason why work was stopped on that specific trail, if there are complaints or objections, it needs to be discussed in public.
The money is another issue. The community voted, but those in charge may be blocking progress or wasting money. How much has been spent and on what? Is there waste, or is spending efficient?
There has been no release of information. The Pilot can fix that.
I appreciate all the hard work of those who are involved, and Pilot reporting merits recognition. Reviews prior to building trails and handling of complaints is important. But we’re talking about lots of money, lots of trails yet to be built.
We need clarification on why work was stopped on the Grouse trail. The Forest Service should explain, allow work to resume as soon as the snow melts and ensure that personal opinions on trail design are not holding up the process.
The Pilot should investigate and report on the use of the lodging tax dollars. Locals need to pay attention and demand more accountability.
We can do better with this opportunity. We owe it to ourselves, our visitors and future generations. Attend Trails Committee meetings, such as the one at noon on Dec. 14 at Centennial Hall, join Routt County Riders, volunteer on trail work-days or contribute to the Trail Maintenance Endowment Fund.
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