Despite fire, lack of funds...
... Forest Service still sees 8 1/2-mile Gold Camp Road segment reopening
A Feb. 13 fire that destroyed the original timbers in Tunnel 3 has not deterred the United States Forest Service from its plans to eventually reopen the tunnel and 8 ½
miles of the historic Gold Camp Road to one-way westbound traffic.
A new Record of Decision (ROD) by Pike National Forest Supervisor Robert Leaverton restates that goal, while a companion document, titled the Supplemental Information Report (SIR), clarifies aspects of what the Forest Service would like to see happen along the road segment when it opens. However, the SIR also notes, there is still no money for the project, which had been pegged at $1.4 million before the fire, nor to fund an estimated $35,000 engineering study to determine a new pricetag for the tunnel-repair portion - previously estimated at about half the overall cost.
The segment is between the intersection of High Drive and North Cheyenne Canyon Road and Old Stage Road. The main Gold Camp Road access from Colorado Springs is on the Westside.
The original ROD was released last July. A new decision was required after the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service raised questions this winter as to whether opening the road would harm a Mexican spotted owl habitat. The new ROD states that it would not.
Like the old ROD, the new one calls for the formation of a volunteer committee that would try to round up money to fund the project, as well as a “third-party cooperator” that would manage the road through a special-use permit from the Forest Service.
The release of the new ROD March 31 started a new 45-day appeal process, which will end at midnight May 17, according to the Forest Service. For more information on filing an appeal, contact Frank Landis, the Forest Service project leader on Gold Camp Road, at 477-4203.
Notable SIR clarifications include the following:
A new gate west of Captain Jack's Trailhead (on the lower section of Gold Camp Road, approximately 3/4 of a mile from High Drive within North Cheyenne Canon Park) - “Vehicles parked behind the gate after hours would have to exit via the one-way High Drive Road,” the SIR states. “Because the gate would be jointly managed between the Forest Service (FS), a third-party cooperator, and the City of Colorado Springs Parks and Recreation and Cultural Services, vehicle access would be prohibited after dark. The existing gate at High Drive will also be locked in coordination with this gate.”
Fairview parking and trailhead, southwest of Tunnel #3 - Development of this trailhead would give hikers and bicyclists close access to the St. Mary's Falls trail, the Seven Bridges trail and old mining roads “that could potentially be designated trails open to all use except motorized use,” the SIR states.
Fairview would also have a gate. When it is locked, any vehicle behind it “would be required to exit one-way west and via Old Stage Road… The purpose of the gate would be to ensure compliance with one-way traffic after hours, camping or campfire restrictions, and to minimize conflicts, crime, and vandalism.”
Two-way possibility for bicycles - Although the law requires that bicyclists comply with the one-way requirement, “the Forest Service may widen certain sections of the road to a width of 20 feet; doing this could provide a safe width to allow for bicycles to travel two-way,” the SIR states. “This would allow bicycle users to ride… to Fairview parking and its potential new trail network access opportunities and return to their points of origin via Gold Camp Road, thus avoiding a much longer return route via Old Stage Road.”
Existing parking at High Drive - “Because this area is under private ownership, the Forest Service has no jurisdiction in the area; therefore, the area is considered outside the scope of this plan,” the SIR states. “This area was for sale during the planning process and is not owned by the City of Colorado Springs. The current parking in this area is in trespass… The second ROD lays the framework to move this parking area to Fairview.”
An additional clarification in the new ROD is the announcement of a minimum daily hours of operation for the one-way road. It would be open from 11 a.m. to about a half hour before dark. According to Landis, the later opening time will provide additional morning opportunities for non-motorized road users.
A one-way scenario was chosen because the gravel road narrows in places so two cars can't fit, the SIR states. The road is two-way from Colorado Springs to the High Street/North Cheyenne Canyon intersection and two-way as it continues on from Old Stage Road to Cripple Creek.
The Feb. 13 fire is believed to be an arson fire, but no more is known.
Westside Pioneer article