Spoke Talk: The ‘backside’ of Emerald Mountain | SteamboatToday.com

Spoke Talk: The ‘backside’ of Emerald Mountain

Kathy McKinstry
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

The Bureau of Land Management manages only a small percentage of the public lands within Routt County. Most of these parcels are very small and are landlocked, meaning they are surrounded by private land with no public access.

Thanks to the years of hard work by multiple partners including the city of Steamboat Springs, Routt County Board of Commissioners, State Land Board, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Emerald Mountain Partnership and many willing private landowners, the Emerald Mountain land exchange was finalized in 2007, placing a large block of land into public ownership.

This exchange consolidated a 4,404-acre parcel of land that was previously owned by the State Land Board and off-limits to the public, and placed the parcel under the management of the BLM. This effort consolidated public and private land ownership patterns, increased public recreational opportunities in Routt County and enabled BLM to acquire and protect important wildlife habitats, critical elk calving habitat.

In the years following the exchange, a flurry of activity ensued to enhance the public’s recreational opportunities on the parcel:

  • 2008/09: Ridge Trail was constructed.
  • 2010: Rotary Trail was built and the Beall Trail was completed.
  • 2015: Cow Creek parking area, kiosk and vault toilet were installed.
  • 2019: New buck and rail fence was built around the trailhead parking area and the old, dilapidated barbed wire fence along the length of Routt County Road 45 was removed. 

More work is to come. On the horizon, the BLM has plans to construct a 10-car parking area at the south end of the parcel, near the Beall Trailhead. In addition to the parking area, a picnic table and shade structure is planned, as well as a short connector trail to get users to the Beall Trail without having to backtrack down C.R. 45. This work is slated for late summer, and we hope to complete much of the work during a National Public Lands Day event. 

Improvements to the existing Ridge Trail are still in the works. A re-route is needed around the big, steep hill that parallels the fence. A trail system for nonmechanized users in the beautiful Kemry Draw area is being discussed, an area teeming with a wide variety of birds.

The BLM is also partnering with the Colorado State Forest Service to put together a long-term, multi-year plan to improve forest health on the Emerald Mountain Parcel. As users know, the amount of deadfall in the vicinity of the Beall Trail is huge, and it’s only thanks to the hard work of dedicated volunteers each year that the Beall Trail is cleared of these fallen trees. It is the goal of the forest health project to remove a large buffer of dead and dying trees to improve user safety on the trails and enhance wildlife habitat. 

The BLM welcomes ideas, comments, questions and concerns from the public, and we can be reached at 970-826-5000. 

Kathy McKinstry is the assistant field manager with the Bureau of Land Management and an important partner to Routt County Riders. 

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