From Darkness To Light

27 Sep 2012

Log Chutes Downhill Mountain Bike Trail approval or denial could set precedent

Posted by Adam Howell

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Ambitions gravity fed for building downhill mountain bike trails on the San Juan National Forest.  

A trestle bridge spanning a drainage bottom.

In a time when downhill mountain bike trails remain illegal on the San Juan National Forest, locals are pumped with ambition to both build and ride these trails.

The question of whether these trails on the Columbine Ranger District can be built, adopted or maintained with safety and resource protection objectives in mind remains undecided by the Forest Service.

Setting the standards and guidelines on the approval and maintenance of officially designated downhill mountain biking trails on the District hinges on the fed’s response to the first proposal from the public to adopt such a trail into the official Forest Service trail system.

Recently proposed by Trails 2000, a local trail advocacy group, was a project to reconstruct several miles of mostly non-system trail up at Log Chutes and designate it as a downhill mountain bike trail.

A biker at Log Chutes gets ready to drop off of a trestle ledge.

Grant money from the Secure Rural Schools Act Resource Advisory Committee to implement the proposal is currently in limbo due to a misunderstanding over whether the money would be used for building a user-specific or multi-use trail. Trails 2000 and everyone else interested can only wait and hope that an agreement can be reached for how the money would be spent, and secondly, that the Forest Service sets the precedent of approving the project.

A draft decision on the approval or direction of the Log Chutes Downhill Mountain Bike Trail Project should be made by late Fall, according to Jed Bostford, the Recreation Staff Officer on the Columbine Ranger District of the US Forest Service.

“During the public scoping period, the Forest Service heard everything ranging from the trail’s a great idea, we fully support it, to Log Chutes is already an area that used to be very equestrian friendly, and now the equestrian users were feeling like it was another step towards not being as friendly,” said Botsford.

Currently the District is writing the Draft Environmental Assessment (EA) on the Project, which will then be open for public comments for a 30-day period, he said.

The final decision on the approval or direction of the EA will follow the public comment period on the draft. It could set a standard for the legality and maintenance of downhill mountain biking trails on the District, said Botsford.

“The Forest Service doesn’t have standards for downhill, because it’s new and upcoming. I mean it’s not really new. It’s 20-years old of a sport,” said Botsford, “but the Forest Service has never set a standard in their Standards and Guidelines book on how to maintain trails.”

“It may be that we set the standards for our own District, but since other areas around the nation are dealing with downhill and freeride also, they may look around and say, ‘what are these guys doing’ and adopt those standards,” said Bostford. “So it’s sort of precedent setting and we don’t want to get it wrong.”

If there is no appeal after the final EA, Botsford said trail construction could start next Spring.

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