‘Preferred’ Gold Camp alternative due Jan. 10

       The release of the draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for Gold Camp Road is scheduled Jan. 10, according to Frank Landis, United States Forest Service (USFS) outdoor recreation planner.
       The EIS will state the “preferred alternative” of the Forest Service, he said. “We hope it is a compromise position. Both parties have to give and take a little bit.”
       By “both parties,” Landis said he was referring to one group that wants to keep an 8.5-mile section of the road closed to cars and a second group that wants to reopen it, allowing through traffic along the two-land gravel road between Colorado Springs and Cripple Creek.
       The draft EIS had been scheduled for release this month, but Landis said the date had to be “bumped back” to January because of a heavy USFS workload in December.
       The release of the draft EIS will start an official 60-day period in which people can submit comments on the preferred alternative, Landis said. Comments in writing are recommended, although phone comments will be listened to.
       Based on comments, the final EIS, scheduled in June of 2005, “could very well be different from the draft,” he said.
       Two open houses will be conducted during the comment period. In Colorado Springs, the meeting will be at Cheyenne Mountain High School Feb. 15. Another will be in Cripple Creek Feb. 17.
       Several workshops this year revealed the key differing opinions and also looked at in-between alternatives. These included opening some but not all of the closed section, opening it as a one-way road and/or improving adjacent trails so hikers would have less need for the road.
       The closed segment, which begins about seven miles uphill from the Westside at the intersection of High Drive and Gold Camp, has been shut off to cars since a tunnel collapse in 1988. The result is the road from that point becoming a haven for hikers, bikers, motorcyclists and some off-road vehicle users. Saying such a unique recreational scenario ought to be preserved, its proponents have been a strong voice in the Gold Camp Road study effort.
       Countering that voice has been a call to reopen the road to all vehicles, chiefly based on the idea that the road was popular in the past and such a beautiful area should not be accessible only to those who are physically capable.
       The Forest Service has said that any scenario will include repair of the damaged tunnel (Tunnel 3) for safety reasons. At this time, however, no construction money has been budgeted, Landis said.

Westside Pioneer article