Horse Gulch Blog

Watchdogging for the greater Durango area

4 May 2015

Go to City of Durango’s joint board meeting on draft Natural Surface Trails Report Thursday

Posted by Adam Howell


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In the City of Durango’s most recent draft of the Natural Surface Trail System Report, City staff recommend the closure of about two miles of trails on City lands, many of those used primarily by mountain bikers, representing the most heavy-handed discrimination against user-built trails to be documented in city history.

The Nose is this washed out trail coming off or Raider Ridge. In the City's draft final Natural Surface Trail System Analysis and Recommendations, this trail is not slated for closure. Meanwhile, the Kitty Charmer Trail coming off the same Ridge, known for its sustainability and gap jump craftsmanship, is slated for closure, since it was illegally built by bikers more recently than this illegally built trail known as The Nose.

The Nose is this washed out trail coming off or Raider Ridge. In the City’s draft final Natural Surface Trail System Analysis and Recommendations, this trail is not slated for closure. Meanwhile, the Kitty Charmer Trail coming off the same Ridge, known for its sustainability and gap jump craftsmanship, is slated for closure, since it was illegally built by bikers more recently than this illegally built trail known as The Nose.

From the broader perspective, it also represents a mutual distrust between mountain bikers who strive more advanced feature-rich trails and City land managers who write in the Report that it may be difficult for them to reach an approval stage on such trail projects, given the ongoing illegal trail work that continues to occur on City lands.

In contrast to those that the City recommends for closure, around 12,000 feet of new trails are being proposed on City lands, with about half of those being reroutes of existing trails, and the rest planned as beginner to intermediate-level cross county trails.

At a joint meeting to occur between the Parks and Recreation Board and the Natural Lands Board, the merits of this Report’s analysis and recommendations will be debated and voted on this Thursday, May 7, at 5:30 p.m. at the Durango Community Recreation Center. The public can attend, but the City is not requesting public comments at this meeting.

As an alternate Natural Lands Board member with voting rights only when another Board member is absent, this blogger will be requesting a multitude of amendments to problems in the City’s Report, which includes the following:

  1. Please delete the recommendations to close the Phoenix Trail, otherwise known as the Dalla Mountain Freeride Trail, which extends south off of the Ponderosa Trail in Dalla Mountain Park. This trail is used primarily by mountain bikers who seek out more challenging riding experiences using the natural rock outcroppings on this stretch of trail. It’s moderate grade and use of rocky terrain generally keeps erosion from becoming a problem on this trail.
  2. Please delete the recommendations to close the Kitty Charmer Trail on the southwest end of Raider Ridge. This freeride trail has rocky terrain, berms, drops, jumps and challenging terrain that’s highly valued by mountain bikers. As a an example of sustainable trail development, this trail held up to the monsoonal rains of 2014, while other trails in Horse Gulch such as the Meadow Loop, Mike’s Trail, and Horse Gulch Road were completely destroyed, whereupon they had to be fixed. Kitty Charmer offers something for mountain bikers that’s rarely, if ever, allowed on City open space lands–gap jumps. Has T2K ever built or supported the construction of a 10 to 15 foot gap jump on City lands?
  3. Please delete the recommendations to close the west end of Grabens Loop in Overend Mountain Park, and the far east end of Grabens Loop coming out of the meadow. Both of these sections of trail continue to be useable by hikers and mountain bikers, despite seasonal monsoons.
  4. Please delete the recommendations to close all of the trails at the easterly, bottom end of Brown’s Ridge in Overend Mountain Park, as they are mostly occurring on private property.
  5. Please delete the recommendation to close the short connector trail near the top of Leyden St. trailhead.
  6. Please delete the sentences where the terms “damaged resources,” (top of page 3) “resource degradation,” “habitat fragmentation,” and “soil erosion” (1st paragraph, page 1) are used in reference to social trails.
  7. Please delete the sentence on page 4, which states: “While opportunities to develop additional progressive trails on Raider Ridge may be possible upon further analysis and City approval, such improvements may be difficult to reach an approval stage given the ongoing illegal trail building that is occurring in this area, and throughout the overall trail system.” Page 4 This refusal to work with trail builders will only continue to foster an atmosphere of distrust between mountain bikers, land managers, Trails 2000, and the La Plata Open Space Conservancy who should be working with them to have their projects reviewed to avoid creating adverse impacts to people, soils, localized biological systems and archaeological values.
  8. Also, the Natural Surface Trails Committee discussed the idea of the City recommending directional travel on some of its trails. Why has that discussion been omitted from this document?
  9. If standards for how trails are approved, and eventually built to be sustainable are in existence, then why does the Report not equally discriminate against some of the sanctioned system trails on City lands that are  are damaged by weather, eroded, and unsustainable? Examples of these types of trails are those coming off of Raider Ridge like The Nose and Down-N-Out.

Additional questions:

  • Was the analysis and recommendations of the Natural Surface Trails Committee accurately reflected in the report?
  • Is the City willing to work with Trails 2000 or an advocate to make modifications to any of the trails slated for closure in the Natural Surface Trails System Report so that they meet the conservation values of both La Plata Open Space Conservancy and the City of Durango?

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