Of the four proposed alternatives to the original plan, Norwood District Ranger Judy Schutza decided to implement Alternative Three, which, along with the new trail system, will install site-specific closures on approximately 23 miles of user-created routes. Forest Service Road 609, also known as Thunder Road, will remain open to all motorized and non-motorized uses.
“We are excited about the prospect of building new trails that are close to Norwood,” stated Schutza in a press release. “We see a need to provide these opportunities and hope they will support the local economy.”
A public comment period on the project’s environmental assessment and proposed alternatives ended on Aug. 8. That document took into consideration five “cause and effect” issues with the original project proposal, including loss of motorized access and recreation opportunities, potential trail conflict between different types of users, impacts on existing livestock operations, trail management and resource concerns, and disturbance to big game.
Alternative Three establishes 17.5 miles of single track available for public use from May 1-Nov. 15, a trailhead parking area, 20-30 designated campsites on E. Naturita Road in addition to five-to-ten sites adjacent to the existing snowmobile parking area, and designated dispersed campgrounds along a two-mile section from the trailhead south to the Mexican Spring area.
The plan also includes the decommission of 23 miles of non-system trails, or user-created trails, which the Forest Service previously identified for decommissioning back in 2002 when they established the Uncompahgre Travel Plan decision. The planned road closures would have been implemented regardless of which Alternative was selected.
According to the Forest Service, the majority of the routes to be closed are old logging roads that were never effectively closed to travel. Some of the routes are new tracks created by unauthorized vehicles – many of them deeply rutted where vehicles have driven during wet conditions, resulting in soil compaction and damage to vegetation. This is of particular concern in sensitive areas such as meadows and riparian areas that provide key wildlife habitat. The method of closures will include signing, installing physical barricades, seeding, planting, and slash piling. Some areas will require the use of an excavator to obliterate existing road beds and break up compaction, and to install earthen berms and water bars.
“We’re ready to implement and ride next summer,” said Schutza, adding, “There’ll be great opportunities for volunteers.”
The public has 45 days to appeal the Thunder Trails decision. For more information, contact Judy Schutza at the Norwood Ranger District, 970/327-4261.