Gold Camp ‘compromise’ plan would reopen historic road to one-way traffic
View the Gold Camp Road map
Vehicles would be able to travel once more from Colorado Springs to Cripple Creek on Gold Camp Road under a “preferred
alternative” revealed by the United States Forest Service Jan. 10.
The $1.3 million proposal, which is neither final nor funded, would repair Tunnel 3 and upgrade the 8.5-mile segment of gravel road on either side of it that has been closed because of tunnel safety issues since 1988. The road would be open only in warmer months (April to November) during daytime hours. The plan also suggests transforming several miles of dirt roads in the area into trails; placing restrictions on access, parking, dogs (must be leashed), recreational shooting (not allowed), camping and campfires; and establishing a budget for ongoing enforcement and maintenance.
Under the federal process, the Forest Service recommendation - 265 pages in all - is called a draft environmental impact statement (EIS), and the public has until March 15 to comment on it. The Forest Service phone number is 636-1602.
Forest Service Outdoor Recreation Planner Frank Landis said the plan was an attempt to find a “compromise position” on a controversial issue that has put a number of outdoor enthusiasts - who typically are allied with each other - on opposite sides. “The road won't be completely closed, and it won't be completely open,” he said. “It will give people an opportunity to experience the road in a one-way fashion.” The one-way scenario would also make the occasionally narrow road safer for cars and cause less impact on hikers and bicyclists who use it too, Landis explained.
The scenic 8.5-mile segment starts at the intersection with High Drive, about seven miles southwest of Gold Camp Road and 26th Street. From Old Stage Road and Gold Camp, it's 26 more miles to Cripple Creek.
The plan was shaped by an eight-month period starting last spring, in which the Forest Service hosted several meetings and took general comments on the concept of reopening the road. Speaking to Colorado Springs City Council about the draft EIS Jan. 10, Landis said his agency had received 450 comments during that time.
The opposing sides have essentially been defined by those who want it closed or open. Also weighing in have been residents of Old Stage Road, who have not enjoyed the extra traffic over the years as people use that route to connect to the upper reaches of Gold Camp; and property owners in the Gold Camp Road area, who have been allowed to drive the closed segment (from Old Stage Road) to get to their holdings.
None of these entities expressed out-and-out dismay with the Forest Service proposal. In comments to the media afterward, Jolene Thompson of Champions of Gold Camp Trail, extolled the “recreational mecca” that has sprouted in the 8.5-mile segment since the road closed, but said she “would be open” to the idea of the one-way solution, pending further study of the draft EIS.
Don Ellis of the Short Line to Cripple Creek group, which has sought the road's reopening, said he believed “everyone is glad the road will be open.” At the same time, he said, “I think having it one way probably creates more problems than it solves. It makes it a little better for people hiking or cycling, but the majority of those people are going to another trail. Now they will most likely drive to the trailhead.”
Another aspect with one-way is whether it also applies to bicycles. So if a biker rides past High Drive, does he or she have to continue the entire 8.5 miles to Old Stage Road to get back down?
Barbara von Hoffmann of Old Stage Road said that while the solution won't take all the cars off her street, “the main thing is that people can drive Gold Camp Road again. That's a good solution.”
Property owners Jim Beechwood and Bonnie Foster said that having the tunnel open was nice but not essential, although Beechwood said he opposes the Champions group because it “wants to keep the road for themselves.”
Landis stressed that the draft EIS is far from a final outcome. “I wouldn't be a bit surprised if the final decision was different,” Landis said.
Other alternatives had ranged from taking no action at all up to opening the road to two-way traffic. The draft EIS indicates that the Forest Service is concerned about safety issues and costs from fully opening the road and that leaving it as is would mean the continuation of “unmanaged non-motorized recreational use (hiking, biking, equestrian), as well as current use of the road by unlicensed, non-street legal ATVs and dirt bikes.”
More public meetings are scheduled. In Colorado Springs, an open house will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 15 at Cheyenne Mountain High School, 1200 Cresta Road. Another meeting will be Feb. 17 in Cripple Creek.
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