Crystal Valley Trail

The deadline for comments to on the Crystal Trail is November 15, click here to submit and see below for ideas on what to include.

Wilderness Workshop supports providing a safe new recreational trail in the Crystal Valley. While our mission is to protect public lands and wildlife, we also recognize and support the benefits trails provide to our community. Our position on the Crystal Valley Trail is informed by science and our overarching goal to protect wildlife habitat and wildlands. To this end we commissioned Rick Thompson, one of Colorado’s most respected wildlife biologists, to analyze impacts of potential trail alignments in the Crystal Valley. You can down download a copy of Rick Thompson’s report here.

All ecological analyses of the wildlife impacts of a Crystal Valley trail including those done by the Crystal River Caucus, Rick Thompson and Pitkin County show that a trail located out of sensitive wildlife habitat and near to the Hi-way 133 alignment would be best for wildlife. Similarly, wildlife managers for Colorado Parks and Wildlife have consistently and for over 20 years given their professional opinion that any trail in the Crystal Valley should be located away from sensitive wildlife habitat and along the Hi-way 133 corridor.

As you submit comments to the County here are some ideas to consider.

  • All scientific studies have shown a near hi-way alignment would be better for wildlife.
  • Colorado Parks and Wildlife has consistently advocated for any trail to stay out of sensitive wildlife habitat and generally follow the hi-way corridor.
  • Impacts to wildlife from trail use extends hundreds of feet beyond the width of the trail and can lead to increased stress, reduced health, decreased reproduction and starvation for animals.
  • The trail would likely have significant detrimental effects on wildlife if developed in areas of high-quality habitat such as Filoha Meadows, Avalanche Creek, Janeway, Red Wind Point, and other areas.
  • Pitkin County has provided lots of good info so far but choosing an alignment requires more. Specifically, the County should provide the public with opportunities for field trips, information about the locations and impacts of bridges, impacts to the river bed and bank, the use of controversial strategies to acquire land and rights of way like R.S. 2477 and Eminent Domain and most importantly the County should analyze a no option or trail on an expanded shoulder option.
  • Open Space and Trails and the County should reach community consensus before submitting this project to the Forest Service for NEPA analysis. The County shouldn’t punt serious issues and a controversial project to the federal government without first resolving all significant issues.

Seasonal Closures
It’s also worth mentioning the issue of seasonal closures since they are likely to be determinative in where a trail is built and it’s impacts to wildlife. Seasonal closures should only be used as a last resort. There are certain places where the risk to wildlife from even a few violations means that a trail should simply never be built there. Where seasonal closures are used as a mitigation measure they must include conditions that:

  • Legally guarantee their existence perpetuity
  • Fund their enforcement in perpetuity
  • Ensure enforcement will be frequent enough to result in minimal violations each season
  • Require complete closure of the trail or portions of the trail if violations surpass a certain threshold

Media:

Aspen Times, July 11, 2017, “Group promotes wildlife-friendly trail route.”