Other Recreational Hot Spots
We’re helping ensure these popular areas aren’t loved to death
A number of the trails on federal public lands in the Roaring Fork Valley were built without Forest Service or BLM permission. As a result, many of them are poorly designed and traverse important wildlife habitat.
The frontier era of building bandit trails on our public lands needs to come to an end. It’s time to move to a more deliberate process of planned trail development.
Recreational use constitutes one of the biggest impacts and threats to our wildlife populations, largely due to the habitat fragmentation that comes with increased trail use. Fortunately this doesn’t mean we can’t recreate in the backcountry or even build new trails. What it does mean is that we need to build trails and manage our activities through a deliberate planning process informed by good science and the advice of wildlife management professionals.
The poster child for how not to do things is the Crown, a mid-elevation play area accessed from various points between Basalt and Carbondale. Unauthorized trail-building and unchecked recreation have turned this BLM unit into an ecological sacrifice zone, causing erosion, degrading habitat and driving out wildlife. It illustrates how things can get out of control when there’s a culture of bandit trail-making coupled with insufficient agency oversight and enforcement.
With that in mind, we’re trying to avoid making the same mistake in the nearby Hay Park area. Working with local ranchers (who have summer grazing allotments there) and mountain bikers (who enjoy the popular Hay Park trail), we and our partners are advocating for a compromise solution, with Congressional wilderness designation for most of the area while providing for mountain biking to continue on existing, legal routes including the popular Hay Park trails. Our goal is to ensure that the area remains as is in perpetuity.
Another area that could go the way of the Crown if we’re not careful is the BLM parcel at the north end of Assignation Ridge, southwest of Carbondale. (The parcel is officially called BLM Thompson Creek.) This area is also proposed for wilderness designation; in the meantime, we’re calling on the BLM to manage the unit for its wilderness characteristics.
Finally, we’re working with the Forest Service to ensure that a proposed new dirtbike/ATV route between Basalt Mountain and Gypsum avoids sensitive habit and is limited to one trail or road, rather than creating a network of routes that would lead to significant fragmentation of this habitat.