Horse Gulch Blog

Watchdogging for the greater Durango area

12 Sep 2014

City boards to consider closing several trail segments in Overend Mountain Park, etc.

Posted by Adam Howell


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Two Durango advisory boards will discuss and consider the closure of several popular trail segments at Overend Mountain Park, Dalla Mountain Park and other city-owned public lands at a meeting in October.

Artwork by Austin Hatala.

Artwork by Austin Hatala. How do you like this design in comparison to the ones on our tshirts?

Horse Gulch Blog is hosting a petition drive to defend the existence of some of these trails as a complement to this story aimed at raising awareness of where these trails are and who benefits from them.

Many of the trails that were marked for closure by the Natural Surface Trails Committee (NST Committee) are in Overend Mountain Park, aka Test Tracks. A few other trails marked for closure are in Horse Gulch and Dalla Mountain Park.

What many of the trails marked for closure have in common is a number of  optional freeride-friendly features on them including drops, rock outcroppings and jumps, with some steep technical lines that allow users to keep their momentum. Some of them are in need of drainage work to keep ruts from destroying them and creating hazards for users.

Reasons given by Durango’s Assistant Community Development Director Kevin Hall for possible closure of these trail segments are that they are either redundant, unsustainable, or specific, user-built (for mountain bikers) trails.

Yet these claims of trail redundancy and volatility are subjective, as many users can experience an independent, isolated utility of each one while understanding techniques for mitigating erosion problems where it makes sense.

In early 2014, the NST Committee was assembled by city staff to address a variety of topics related to the natural surface trail system on City of Durango properties. Their committee was not recognized as an official city board, and as such their meetings were not advertised to the public. Meeting minutes were not taken, and interested residents were not invited to participate in drafting their recommendations.

Those represented on the committee were three people each from the Natural Lands Board and the Parks and Recreation Board, Trails 2000 staff, the La Plata Open Space Conservancy staff and city staff members Cathy Metz and Kevin Hall.

The NST Committee’s recommendations and accompanying trail inventory map will be discussed, modified, and approved by the Natural Lands Board and the Parks and Recreation Board at a meeting on October 27. Public comments will be distributed to all board members beforehand or taken at the meeting before a final vote of approval is taken on the committee’s recommendations, according to Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz.

Metz said that a press release would be issued to advertise the joint board meeting where the proposed trail closures will be discussed.

Assistant Community Development Director Kevin Hall walked and laid GPS tracks on many of the trails for adding to the mapped inventory.

“Existing trails to be abandoned or closed–obviously this probably will be the most contentious discussion item for some. However, I identified those here,” said Durango’s Assistant Community Development Director Kevin Hall, in reference to some maps that he made.

In a series of maps, Hall color-coded all of the trails on city lands that he and the committee could find in and attempt to inventory those that are mapped, to later be mapped, to remain unmapped, newly proposed trails or reroutes, or those slated for closure.

Durango’s Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz delegates the process of destroying trails that have been identified for closure.

The likelihood of the city having the resources to close those identified trails this year is slim, said Metz, given that the process of inventorying them could extend through December.

“We just remove it, and put duff over it, and like you do with a trail closure,” said Metz.

OMP Trails Aug 2014, Howell edit

This map that was edited by Adam Howell was provided courtesy of Keven Hall, Durango’s Assistant Community Development Director.

Dalla Trail System Aug 2014, Howell edit copy

This map that was edited by Adam Howell, was provided courtesy of Kevin Hall, Durango’s Assistant Community Development Director.

Many of the trail segments that the boards will consider closing have no names, but if they do, then please advise readers in a comment below the story.

Seven popular trail segments that the City of Durango is considering closing:

1. Drop-in connection to Grabens Loop above Star Wars Trail

This unnamed segment has a couple small drops of no more than a foot, a whoop and some steeps with a rut aside it that can be drained with water bars. It is a very popular and fast route for dropping into Grabens Loop right above Star Wars Trail in such a way that allows riders to keep their momentum.

“I think in terms of its steepness and the fact that there’s an alternate route real close that I would say will hold up longer, currently that’s shown as one that would go away, but it does tie in at the same point,” said Hall.

Two riders on an unnamed trail segment above Grabens Loop.
Two riders on an unnamed trail segment above Grabens Loop.

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The bottom of the nameless connection to Grabens Loop.

2. Grabens Loop interconnector

This trail segment runs through a little canyon between some Grabens inside the Grabens Loop. It’s mostly flat with an avoidable, short, steep climb/descent on the east side.

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3. Brown’s Ridge descent to Falcon Trail
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4. Falcon Trail descent to Kearney Street
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5. Ridge line to Ned’s Hill
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6. Hawks Nest Freeride Trail

Hawks Nest is a piece of City land that was purchased without the help of a grant from Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) and therefore, no conservation easement was needed to govern the  management of the land.

This means that  La Plata Open Space Conservancy, the local land trust, was not needed to monitor an easement over this small piece of land.

As such, it was questionable for me why La Plata Open Space Conservancy’s Executive Director spoke on behalf of her organization at a Natural Surface Trails Committee meeting about managing a piece of land that they they do not hold a conservation easement for.

Schwarzbach told the NST Committee that new downhill lines have popped up in Hawks Nest over the past two months.

“I don’t know if when we do a site visit this winter if we want to look at some of those and say what’s the preferred line,” said Schwarzbach.

“If that’s where folks want to be, and not on this one, then do we find that middle ground instead of battling two that are side by side, a couple hundred feet apart,” she said. “Because some of the landings below the rocks are blown out, and there’s erosion there and no vegetation left,” she said. “It’s clear which direction the travel is going. It’s all in sight of the other trails.”

Got gap jumps? Hawks Nest Freeride Trail does for the time being--unless the city goes ahead with recommendations from the Natural Surface Trails Committee recommendation to close (destroy) the trail.
Got gap jumps? Hawks Nest Freeride Trail does for the time being–unless the city goes ahead with recommendations from the Natural Surface Trails Committee to close (destroy) the trail.

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7. Dalla Mountain Freeride Trail

This trail is no secret to city officials. Parks and Recreation director Cathy Metz has sent her park rangers out to destroy parts of this trail on several different occasions, but it gets rebuilt repeatedly by a determined group of freeriders who refuse to be discriminated against.

Running perpendicular to the Ponderosa Trail, it’s known for its rideable rock outcroppings, jumps and drops.

“A very specific-use built trail,” said Hall “A rough trail may have been there, but there had been a lot of love put to it to make it a different trail than it had been over the years. I don’t even know if it’s still there or not. I think it may have been obliterated recently.”

“But I put it on here because a month ago it was there. But that was another one that I picked up for the inventory that may or may not have been cleaned up, if you will,” said Hall.

A freerider hitting a jump on the Dalla Mountain Freeride Trail. Don't let the City of Durango destroy this trail!

A freerider hitting a jump on the Dalla Mountain Freeride Trail. Don’t let the City of Durango destroy this trail!

Although it’s an illegal trail, this one could remain sustainable through adverse weather conditions, and benefits many local freeriders who love jumps, drops, rock outcroppings and berms.

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Horse Gulch Trail System Aug 2014 For Further Analysis-page-001

Map courtesy of Durango’s Assistant Community Development Director Kevin Hall.

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