Letter: Existing trails provide ample opportunities to enjoy Routt National Forest

The beauty of nature and our forests must be protected from the overwhelming impact of humanity. Mother Earth is suffering. Care and love for nature can be balanced and afford us the opportunity to see what exists naturally undisturbed. I believe the trail system that exists in Routt National Forest gives us all the opportunity to use our national forests for recreation and to see nature in peaceful existence. Delay of this project is necessary until further study is done to assess the need for such a disturbance to our forest and to our wildlife. 

I have lived in Routt County for 24 years. For those 24 years I have been riding my horse every week of the summers up to three times per week, for 2 to 4 hours per ride, riding North Routt, South Routt, Rabbit Ears and Emerald Mountain trails. My observation has been that at least 98% of those rides (except for the front side of Emerald Mountain) we encounter no other people. This indicates that access to our forests due to lack of trails or overcrowding is not the issue. Everyone currently has the opportunity to find a trailhead to one of our forest trails, venture in, and to see what the forest has to offer. 

Maintenance has been an issue for those 24 years. The Forest Service states the lack of staff has been the primary reason for limits on maintenance. The creation of illegal trails using game trails, as well as people traveling the path of least resistance has been met with no enforcement or remediation. Who will maintain and enforce use of a more extensive system?

The trail system on the front side of Emerald Mountain is extensive. It has provided a place for quick access for a fun mountain bike ride, many races, and now commercial activity. It is a mecca for mountain bike enthusiasts and a draw for visitors from all over. But at this point in time it has become unusable for hikers and equestrians as safety is an issue. A new trail system that pushes the masses to enter the forest from every angle and with ease does not “Keep Routt Wild.” 

If creating a new trail system across the mountains and forests have the purpose to attract more visitors and to develop a highway through nature just to have individuals say they have “done it” and check that box, at the expense of pristine quiet forest and its inhabitants, then shame on the human caretakers of our forest.

Donna Dunkelberger

Steamboat Springs

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