Bear Creek Trail Closure Proposals

March 25th, 2014

Jones Park

A few weeks ago the Forest Service had an open house about proposed trail closures due to the greenback cutthroat trout in Bear Creek. I’m not convinced they’ve studied the impacts of the trail well enough to say they’re a problem but because of settling a lawsuit with environmental groups it probably doesn’t matter what the impact is. The US Fish and Wildlife Service must approve any trail work in the Bear Creek drainage including current trail maintenance.

At the open house, 3 alternatives were shown. Alternative A is the current trail system and we know that there’s very little chance the trails will remain the same in the future. Alternatives B and C have various trail closures and re-routes.

Both new alternatives would still allow the “Missing Link” trail to be created to link Barr Trail to the Jones Park area but would make it longer because of going around Jones Park and I believe add an uphill section. Also with both proposals, High Drive would be closed to vehicle traffic but would be open to non-motorized use.

Alternative B has all of Jones Park off limits and the upper part of Bear Creek Trail (666) closed. A trail re-route from Pipeline would keep Captain Jacks away from Bear Creek and connect where Captain Jacks currently drops down from the ridge to the creek and intersects with 666. A connector would be created from Buckhorn over to 666 near Josephine Falls.

I believe Alternative C is the same as Alternative B except that all of Bear Creek Trail (666) would be closed. I don’t think you’ll find it surprising that I don’t like this plan.

One part of “Alternative B” that I’m not sure is necessary is the complete closure of Jones Park at least to non-motorized use as that area is flatter and doesn’t have nearly the erosion issues of lower on Cap’n Jacks. Most of Jones Park is Colorado Springs Utilities land and I don’t think they want to make sure they have no risk with the greenback cutthroat trout.

One effect of closing Jones Park is access to Mt. Arthur and Mt. Garfield will be more difficult. It would be nice if a trail could be built from the Section 16 area to allow more access into that area. Also there are ruins of historic buildings in the Jones Park area that would be off limits.

It’s not clear how long it will be before the whatever plan is approved will be implemented. The US Fish and Wildlife Service have until late summer to approve the plan the Forest Service submits to them.

I talked to Forest Ranger Allan Hahn at the meeting last month about how soon trail re-routes could be done after a plan was approved. Although the Forest Service doesn’t have money for the changes, he believes the plan could be implemented in a matter of weeks since so many people are willing to volunteer to get access to the area. I’m not optimistic that with all the government red tape that volunteers would be turned loose to get the re-routes done that quickly.

Now it’s time to move forward and get the best possible trails under the circumstances. Input on the proposals can be sent to the Forest Service by emailing bcc@fs.fed.us, faxing (719) 477-4233 or mailing. Comments must be received by March 27th, 2014. One thing a found from talking to the Forest Service is they don’t understand very well how people use the trails and that it would be helpful to them to know more.

The Gazette did an article that includes some of history of the Bear Creek area. Someone who is fighting against any closures also has history on the area with historic photos. At this point, I don’t believe fighting the changes is productive but the page has some interesting information.

Below is the letter the the Peak Mtb Collective has been asking people to sign at the informational meetings they’ve held. Use it as is or as a starting point for your feedback to the Forest Service. Also go to the Peak Mtb Collective page and sign up for email updates on the Bear Creek drainage trails and other Colorado Springs area trail issues.

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Bear Creek Watershed Restoration Project
Pikes Peak Ranger District
601 S. Weber Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80903
719-477-4233
bcc@fs.fed.us

In reviewing the proposed changes to travel management and recreational activities and the improvement actions for the stream habitat in the Bear Creek Watershed Restoration Project (BCWRP) area, I understand that the project’s purpose is to protect the greenback cutthroat trout as well as to maintain a balance among the many trail user groups. The area in question has a well-established, recognized trail system that is important to the outdoor lifestyle for which the Pikes Peak region is known.

As an avid user of the Bear Creek area and Pikes Peak region trail systems, I am aware of the important balance we share with our eco-system. I have read full through the proposed BCWRP proposals and I support “Alternative B” as the action plan for implementation by the Pikes Peak Ranger District. I believe “Alternative B” supports the objective of protecting the greenback cutthroat trout as well as offering a balance between access and use of this vast trail system.

Acknowledging that change is needed in the area, “Alternative A” offers little compromise regarding the ecological concerns of the project. “Alternative C” offers limited compromise by significantly limiting trail access including the complete closure of trail 666. I believe either of these plans hinders involved groups’ respective goals and could have negative long term effects.

I want to thank everyone involved in the project and look forward to seeing “Alternative B” move forward. I also extend myself as a resource in the implementation of “Alternative B” in the Bear Creek Watershed Restoration Project.

Bear Creek Watershed Meeting and Feedback

February 25th, 2014

Pipeline Trail

The trails in the Bear Creek drainage are some of the most popular trails in the Pikes Peak region. Recent testing has revealed that the fish in Bear Creek (approximately 750 adults) are the sole remaining genetically pure population of greenback cutthroat trout. The population is currently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. It seems strange that such a heavily used area is the only place that the fish have survived.

I’ve been hiking and riding these trails for over 25 years. Here’s a Jones Park ride report from a couple years ago. The Ring the Peak mountain bike race also uses these trails.

The US Forest Service was sued by environmental groups for not sufficiently protected these fish. In the fall of 2012, Bear Creek Trail (666) and Captain Jacks Trail (667) were closed to dirt bikes and camping was prohibited in the area.

Last fall the Forest Service got public input on trail closures to all users and alternative re-routes. Now they’re getting public input on proposed changes.

There’s an open house tonight (2/25/14) at the Colorado Springs Utilities’ Leon Young Service Center, 1521 Hancock Expressway from 5:30 – 7:30 PM. If you can’t make tonight’s meeting, you use the comment link on their web page through March 27th..

There’s information about the proposed trail and access changes on the Bear Creek Watershed Assessment & NEPA page on the Forest Service website. The good news is they’re proposing rerouting trails and not completely closing the area although it appears Jones Park itself would be off-limits. It appears to me from the maps that Alternative B keeps most of trail 666 except for the cool section right near the current Captain Jack intersection. Alternative C shows 666 as being closed which would be a real bummer.

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Trails Around Jones Park Could be Closed

April 4th, 2013

Jones Park Above Colorado Springs

Last year it was determined that the 750 greenback cutthroat trout living in Bear Creek near Jones park are the only genetically pure greenback cutthroat left. The US Forest Service was sued by environmental groups for not sufficiently protected these fish. Last fall Bear Creek Trail (666) and Captain Jacks Trail (667) were closed to dirt bikes and camping was prohibited in the area.

I’ve been hiking and riding these trails for over 25 years. Here’s a Jones Park ride report from a couple years ago. The Ring the Peak mountain bike race also uses these trails.

Now the Forest Service is proposing closing 3.5 miles of trail along Bear Creek to all users. While I’m for protecting the fish and agree there’s still erosion problems in spite of all the work the dirt bike groups have done, I have trouble believing closing the trails is necessary.

It seems strange that such a heavily used area is the only place that the fish have survived. Since they have survived, why is it necessary to close the trails? It seems that rerouting the trail in places and adding more erosion control should be sufficient.

The USFS has a webpage with a several detailed documents on the assessment process. The detailed trail assessment includes a map of the affected trails.

The proposal has some possible trail reroutes and at least one would allow connection to the proposed Missing Link Trail which would be really cool to have completed. The information on these possible reroutes start on page 74 of the trail assessment document. Medicine Wheel has some good comments on the proposals.

Tonight, Thursday March 4th, there will be an Open House from 4:00 – 9:00 p.m. at the Leon Young Service Center (1521 Hancock Expressway, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80903).

If you can’t make the open house, you can provide comments through April 30th, 2013 by mail, fax, or email to:

Bear Creek Watershed Restoration Project
Pikes Peak Ranger District
601 S. Weber Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80903
(719) 477-4233 fax
bcc@fs.fed.us

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