Spring Creek at a tipping point? Some worry about more cycling traffic coming off of Buffalo Pass
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Johnny Walker is worried the tranquil forest near his summer teepee home in Routt County has reached a tipping point.
The traffic on the narrow county road Walker uses to access his summer home near Spring Creek Canyon is increasing thanks to a new trail system being built above on Buffalo Pass.
And Walker thinks a new downhill mountain bike trail, which is going to be built in the area this summer to get this traffic off of Buff Pass and into Spring Creek, will create a dangerous traffic situation in nearby Spring Creek Park.
“The trail (and Spring Creek Road) is having a hard time handling all these different user groups as it is, and now, we’re bringing in a high speed bicycling interest,” Walker said. “I’m worried someone is going to get hit or injured.”
The new trail being built this summer for mountain bikers in Spring Creek Canyon will separate hikers and horseback riders from cyclists as the cyclists ride from the Dry Lake Campground area to Routt County Road 34.
But it will end a couple of miles short of Amethyst Drive and bring the cycling traffic back on the same trail as hikers, off-leash dogs and parents pushing strollers for a couple of miles.
C.R. 34 doubles as a hiking and biking trail as it leads Amethyst and dead ends at a narrower hiking trail.
Walker thinks the new downhill trail falls short of reducing potential conflicts between trail users in the area because it could funnel even more traffic to the county road.
He said he’s also already heard of residents who don’t use Spring Creek trail and the county road as often as they used to because of increasing traffic in the area.
What’s driving more traffic along Spring Creek?
One explanation is it has become the exit from a growing system of trails up on Buffalo Pass.
Cyclists will be able to use the new downhill trail to more easily get down from Buffalo Pass to the outskirts of downtown Steamboat Springs.
“If we allow all this to happen, we’re going to lose this great wonderful park in Spring Creek where you can take children to play in the stream without having to worry about getting run over,” Walker said. “I’m speaking out for the peace and quiet.”
Walker found himself outnumbered at a recent public meeting where the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission was being asked to weigh on the proposed trail.
He said he has friends on the opposite side of the issue who think the trail will be beneficial.
Meanwhile, Kent Foster, a U.S. Forest Service recreation specialist, said the city and Routt County will discuss the issue at a joint meeting next month.
He added the city and the county have already been brainstorming ways to make the county road leading into Spring Creek Canyon safer.
Possible short-term solutions include putting up signs reminding everyone to share the road and putting in delineators on the gravel road to mark lanes of traffic.
“I know they’re working on it,” Foster said.
Foster said when the new trails on Buffalo Pass were being planned by the Forest Service, the concerns about the increased traffic in Spring Creek weren’t being raised.
“Had it come up, we would have addressed it,” Foster said. “We felt internally that the road was wide enough to accommodate all the traffic.”
Foster said the path of the new Spring Creek alternate trail for the mountain bikers has been finalized, and construction is set to start this summer.
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The Routt County Board of Commissioners is back in the hearing room it vacated when the pandemic sent the world home in March 2020 — and the public is welcome to attend, too.