Trails in spotlight at special RRC confab
City’s draft map proposes extensive changes, some on established paths
Noting a strong public interest in trails, City Parks has scheduled an extra meeting on that subject as part of the continuing master-plan process for the expanded Red Rock Canyon Open Space.
The meeting, which was announced at the Oct. 5 master-plan meeting, will be at the Westside Community Center, 1628 W. Bijou St., Wednesday, Oct. 19, starting at 6:30 p.m. The public is welcome.
The master-plan intent, as Sarah Bryarly, City Parks interim development manager, has explained it, is to integrate the existing Red Rock Open Space (totaling about 800 acres) with the neighboring, recently purchased Section 16 and White Acres open spaces (totalling about 700).
In small-group reports at the end of the initial Red Rock meeting Sept. 7, “trails” were mentioned three times as often as any other value (including “wildlife, “not crowded” and “natural area”) under the heading of “elements of a quality experience,” according to meeting results announced by the city.
A lingering issue is how to deal with potential conflicts among different users (hikers, cyclists and equestrians) on trails, assuming all the open space trails wind up being multi-use. A proposal for a cyclist-only trail gained no support at the Oct. 5 meeting.
A new trail discussion point came into view at that same meeting, when City Parks and Tapis Associates - the city's hired consultant for the master plan - unveiled a draft map that suggests closing and/or rerouting established trail segments in Section 16, as well as the Sand Canyon “social trail” in Red Rock Canyon.
A proposed new trail would go from a spot near Gold Camp Road up through White Acres, which currently has some worn-in footpaths but no established trail(s) to connect it with the road, or with Section 16 and Red Rock Canyon.
The draft trail map particularly touches on the Intemann Trail, proposing three major reroutes in the Section 16 portion of the urban-access trail that continues northwest into Manitou Springs. Most of the Section 16 Intemann was laid out as a project by the Denver-based Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC) 25 years ago and has been maintained ever since by the local Intemann Trail Committee (ITC).
Proposed for closure in its entirety is the Waterfall Connector Trail in Section 16 between the Intemann Trail and the Palmer/Red Rock Loop Trail. The roughly 1/3-mile trail, which allows access to an intermittent waterfall, was built about 10 years ago and is maintained by the ITC.
Specifics on the different closures/reroutes are expected to be discussed at the Oct. 19 meeting, but Bryarly said the Waterfall Connector closure proposal is based on the “habitat around it.” She did not have details on this at press time.
She emphasized that the closures/reroutes “are not set in stone. We're asking the public to look at our draft and give us feedback on whether it's reasonable or not reasonable.”
At the meeting, Tapis owner Priscilla Marbaker, offered a similar sentiment, saying “the process had to start somewhere.”
There was friction at the Oct. 5 meeting when attendees representing the ITC complained that the draft map was a surprise and had been prepared without their input or that of at least one other trail group they knew of. Later, Bryarly confirmed that the city and Tapis had not told any of the volunteer groups about the contemplated reroutes/closures.
Travers Jordan of the ITC said at the meeting that handling it that way “was not very polite” and that a more useful map would have resulted if the Section 16 volunteer groups had been included in the advance discussions. Later, he also questioned some of the city-Tapis decision-making, noting that most of the areas suggested for closure were built at the original 1987 VOC workday and only require light annual maintenance by ITC crews.
Bob Johnson, president of the Friends of Red Rock Canyon (the umbrella volunteer group for the now-larger Red Rock Open Space), said after the meeting that he was “shocked by the massive amount of changes” shown on the draft map. “If they did consult us, it would have been a good thing, but I guess they didn't want to hear any debate,” he said.
As for the extent of reroutes shown on the draft map, he said, “We'll be putting in trails for 10 years,” and it might even require paid trail-builders.
Bryarly said the city does not feel as if it left out the volunteer groups in drafting the map, because before the first public meeting in September, Tapis representatives had talked to them about their concerns and ideas.
The overall intent with any reroutes, Bryarly summarized, is to be cognizant of safety, forest health and long-term trail sustainability.
In answer to a question, she said she has no estimate of how many total miles of trail would be affected or how many man-hours would be required to accomplish what the draft map shows. The city has not perfomed such an estimate, she said, because she does not want citizens to think that the proposed changes are a “done deal.”
She also said that Marbaker has previously worked with the city on trail design, including the original Red Rock Canyon master plan in 2004 and Red Rock's later Contemplative and Roundup trails.
Before scheduling the special Oct. 19 meeting, the city had set the next master-plan meeting for Nov. 16. That date is still on.
Westside Pioneer article