Several Bear Creek watershed trails - closed by Forest Service after 2013 flooding - temporarily reopening June 20
All trails in the Bear Creek watershed that the U.S. Forest Service closed after last September's flooding will re-open June 20 - at least for a few months - according to a report from the Trails and Open Space Coalition (TOSC).
A blog by TOSC's Eileen Healy states that the Forest Service made that announcement at a meeting June 10.
“This is the result of the reassessment that was referred to as ongoing in May, when the Palmer-Red Rock Loop trail was [re]opened,” the blog points out.
“We also learned that the National Parks Foundation is willing to help transfer Colorado Springs Utilities property (including Jones Park) to the Forest Service. Utilities prefers to transfer the land, which is surrounded by National Forest, rather than face possible liability with protecting [a reportedly rare species of] the greenback cutthroat trout,” the blog continues. “The foundation has the funding to effect the transfer, and to improve or re-route trails to protect the trout per NEPA (the National Environmental Policy Act).
“The hope is that the trout can be protected while allowing safe public access to historic recreational trails.
“The NEPA process is continuing, and the report is expected in the fall. At that time, trails may be decommissioned and/or re-routed. We will report on the Forest Service response in the fall as we receive more information.”
TOSC is a Westside-based advocacy group for trails and open space.
Public comments were sought this spring on a proposal by the Forest Service to permanently remove public access to some popular areas in the Bear Creek watershed as part of what the agency terms a "restoration project" centered on trout preservation.
Since then, the Forest Service has reported receiving more than 700 letters and e-mails on the matter. “Based on the comments, we are exploring the possibility of changes to the proposed action,” stated a recent press release from Janelle Valladares, team lead of the agency's Bear Creek Watershed Restoration Project.
The temporarily reopened trails (see map accompanying this story) are Forest Service trails 665, 666, 667, 668, 701 and part of 702. All were closed by the Forest Service Jan. 7 in its Order 14-02.
The NEPA watershed study area consists of Forest Service and Colorado Springs Utilities land in the mountains west of Colorado Springs. Bear Creek flows down through Bear Creek Regional Park and eventually into Fountain Creek.
Altogether, under the alternatives presented in March, the Forest Service would decommission 8.3 miles of system trail and build 5.9 miles of new trail. The changes would include a major rerouting of Trail 667 (also called the Jones Park Trail), moving it away from Bear Creek because of concerns about the fish habitat.
Westside Pioneer/press release