From Darkness To Light

21 Feb 2013

Read these public comments on the Draft Horse Gulch Open Space Management Plan

Posted by Adam Howell

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Unattended horses near the meadow in Horse Gulch.

The City of Durango received a wide array of public comments on the Draft Horse Gulch Open Space Management Plan in January, which you can read all of if you wish by scrolling down through the blue text below.

A copy of the comments that were submitted was provided by Cathy Metz, Durango’s Director of Parks and Recreation, with all of the names and contact information redacted.

This blogger requested that the names of those who had submitted each comment be included without their contact information, but was denied by Metz, on the grounds that providing the names would lead to unnecessary controversy.

Additionally, it was unclear whether the comment period in January of 2013 would be the last opportunity for everyone to submit their comments on the Draft Plan, as Kevin Hall, Durango’s Director of Natural Lands, Trails and Sustainability might allow La Plata Open Space Conservancy to do another review of it before it gets approved by the Natural Lands Preservation Advisory Board.

La Plata Open Space Conservancy currently owns the Deed of Conservation Easement on 705 acres of Horse Gulch open space property. The Deed was donated from the City of Durango as a requirement of Great Outdoors Colorado, a funding partner in the property’s acquisition.

“They did a review, an initial review,” Hall said of LPOSC at the last Natural Lands Board meeting. “We didn’t see much in the way of comments on the first go around on the initial draft. But they felt like they wanted the opportunity to look at it one more time before the document was approved by the Board. And that’s fine. That’s actually helpful.”


Horse Gulch Management Plan

Public Comments Summary

To the City of Durango,

I currently live in Telluride, have lived in Western Colorado for more than 35 years, enjoy mountain biking and hiking, and have been involved in multiple trail design and construction projects in our area. The area that is encompassed in your plan is an obvious benefit to your community as well as the County and State. Durango continues to be one of the meccas for Mountain Bikers, and the Horse Gulch area has frequently been their first local riding experience for close to 30 years. Obviously, there has been unpermitted trail building there and I’m sure there have been some conflicts that have arisen due to the lack of management.

I have read the proposed management plan and think it is a great idea to preserve and improve the trail system. The one suggestion I have that didn’t seem to be addressed is the potential for trail user conflicts as it seems that all the trails will be multi-use and multi-directional. I suggest some specific trails for hikers, and/or equestrians, and/or mountain bikers. In my experience, all of these users are looking for a little separation from each other, and would sometimes prefer an outdoor experience without the others. Equestrians and hikers don’t want to have aggressive (fast) biker come railing around a corner at them, and the bikers don’t want to have to ‘shut it down’ in higher speed situations as it is dangerous and bad for the trail. Plenty of bikers also appreciate a directional trail where, if they are climbing, they won’t be disturbed by downhill riders, and the downhill riders can fly down without the worry of uphill traffic and/or hikers and equestrians. There are plenty of the existing trails that could continue to be multi-use, but as you move forward with this proposal, you should consider potentially closing/creating some specific routes for different users and designating a direction where appropriate.

Thank You for moving to preserve this amazing experience for the locals and the guests to this area!


Subject: It is no secret, we need progressive trails in Durango

Responding to the request for community feedback:

Insofar as a management plan goes, I’d like the city and other Horse Gulch parties to consider adding Downhill or Freeride trails (user specific one-way) only trails. I’ve met with the city and land use boards multiple times. We even have a trail proposal with a GPS map (see link below).

Ultimately, I’m also in favor of having more trails being designated as one-way. This would ensure less accidents and harmful run-ins with bikers and hikers.

Please, consider adding more progressive trails! Other communities in a three-hour radius are taking our tourist dollars! Every visitor counts!


There is mention of maintenance of current trails and construction of new trails but no mention of how the closure and rehabilitation of any unnecessary/redundant or erosive trails would be determined or handled.  This issue should be addressed – under what circumstances would it take place and how would it be handled.


There is no mention of how the city plans to enforce restrictions against illegal camping.  This is a big issue up there that should be outlined and addressed as to how it will be handled and why it is a problem; i.e. conflicts with recreation, public health, etc.


It was not clear to me where picnic areas and restrooms would be considered for construction – is it just at trailheads or would they be considered in the backcountry?  How would this take place to agree with the terms of the conservation easements?


I did not find any infromation on the value of the property as wildlife habitat and the City’s responsibility to consider it when managing recreation, especially in those areas held under conservation easement. If the City does not have this information, it could be acquired from CP&W. Discussion of what type of habitat and wildlife exist now with current recreational activities would offer a baseline to be considered during future construction of trails and facilities.

The omission of any reference to wildlife as a value of the property would certainly not be in line with the purposes for which the acquisition of the land was financed.



I am pleased to see that the plan recognizes the Telegraph and Horse Gulch Trail System is used extensively for non-motorized activities such as hiking, trail running, horseback riding, and mountain biking.

As a horseback rider, my friends and I enjoy riding the Telegraph and Horse Gulch Trail System. I would like to see it continue to be managed as a multiple use facility for the non-motorized users recognized in the description of the area. Notwithstanding the extensive use of the trail system by mountain bikers, it is a prime location for equine use as well. I firmly believe that horsemen, hikers, and bikers can coexist on this trail system with a mutual respect for one another.

There are many youthful equine enthusiasts in Durango and La Plata County who need this area to pursue their interest. Many of these users keep their horses at the La Plata County Fairgrounds. In the not too distant future, the fairground facilities will move to a location near Grandview which will have better access to the Grandview Ridge/Horse Gulch areas. Having an area to ride will go a long ways toward preserving an American tradition for generations.


Please keep horse trails open on this namesake trail and the Grandview trail systam. The equestrians are essentil Durango.


To Whom it may concern:

I am writing to you to express my sincere belief that access to Horse Gulch for equine enthusiasts is imperative.  My family and friends utilize the trail system in Horse Gulch year round with our horses.  We enjoy this special place and it’s proximity to downtown Durango.  PLEASE keep Horse Gulch open and accessible for all to enjoy!!  Also, I have read the draft plan for the Gulch and I do not believe that dogs should be required to be on a leash.  We ride with our dogs all the time as do the mountain bikers, etc…  it would be very difficult, if not impossible to ride a horse or a mountain bike with your dog on a leash.  There isn’t any reason to impose such a regulation in an open space area such as Horse Gulch.

Thank you for listening!


Equestrian use in a community increases the diversity of recreation in a population center. I strongly support the idea that equestrian use be allowed in the Horse Gulch trail system.

All trail users can accomodate each others needs. There may be guidelines and rules needed, but this will allow for a win/win situation for all interests.

I have participated in two “horse&mountain biker” learning situations with DEVO. I found it to be fun and rewarding. Getting face to face time with other trail users can create a bond that allows for respect and understanding of each groups interests. Please allow for the continuation of Durango’s agricultural heritage by approving equestrian use on this trail system.

Thank you.


Hello. I’m writing to comment on the draft management plan for recreational use in the Horse Gulch area.

This is a popular and appropriate in-town area not only for hikers and bikers, but also for equestrian use. It is an excellent example of a successful multiple use recreation area. Fairgrounds boarders (mostly/all 4-H) and locals with horses find it a great place to do spring conditioning and also to enjoy a quick ride in all seasons when driving further distances is inconvenient. And with the Fairgrounds’ planned move to the Horse Gulch area, continued access for riders in Horse Gulch will be especially important to the future success of our fairgrounds/Events Center there.

Durango considers the horse an appealing icon to use for promoting the area’s Western history and culture. I’m asking that the City make sure that actual, real horses continue to be part of the area’s life. Horse Gulch is an excellent area to demonstrate that commitment.


Hello. I was reading through the Horse Gulch Management Plan and noticed that dogs would not be allowed off-leash. It looks like that regulation would be in place because it would be considered a Durango ‘park’. I would ask that an exception be made for this in Horse Gulch.

There are surprisingly few areas in the immediate vicinity of Durango that allow dogs off-leash. Allowing dogs off-leash in Horse Gulch would go a long way toward helping owners get exercise and outdoor experiences for their dogs. I do not currently have a dog but I know it is vastly easier and more enjoyable for the dog and the owner if they are able to run around.

From past experience I think it is likely that some dog owners will allow their dogs off-leash regardless of the regulations. This can cause confrontations between these dog owners and other members of the public who disagree with their decision. I doubt that would be a big issue but I have seen such confrontations before in Horse Gulch.

Durango desperately needs more locations where dogs can run free. Horse Gulch would be a great area for this.

Thanks for your time.


Hi Cathy,

I have spoken to you on a few occasions about horse related subjects, and you have always been informative and helpful.  Just briefly, could I take a few minutes of your time to ask about the Horse Gulch plans that the city has?  Two questions:

1.  Will this plan have any possible impact on equestrian users in the area?  If there is a possible change, could we find out more about it?

2.  Will smaller horse trailers be able to use the parking area the city is proposing?

Thank you for the help on this.


I think Horse Gul;ch Open Space could be greatly improved by doing something about the obscene amount of dog poop left on the trails, and the parking area!!

Maybe people who don’t pick up after their dogs should be fined $100.00 for 1st offense, $200.00 for 2nd offense, and banned from city and county trails on the 3rd offense.

this is a serious environmental and even more serious health concern on all city trails.

thank you


I am pleased to see that the plan recognizes the Telegraph and Horse Gulch Trail System is used extensively for non-motorized activities such as hiking, trail running, horseback riding, and mountain biking.

As a horseback rider, my friends and I enjoy riding the Telegraph and Horse Gulch Trail System. I would like to see it continue to be managed as a multiple use facility for the non-motorized users recognized in the description of the area. Notwithstanding the extensive use of the trail system by mountain bikers, it is a prime location for equine use as well. I firmly believe that horsemen, hikers, and bikers can coexist on this trail system with a mutual respect for one another.

There are many youthful equine enthusiasts in Durango and La Plata County who need this area to pursue their interest. Many of these users keep their horses at the La Plata County Fairgrounds. In the not too distant future, the fairground facilities will move to a location near Grandview which will have better access to the Grandview Ridge/Horse Gulch areas. Having an area to ride will go a long ways toward preserving an American tradition for generations.


I have spent many happy hours riding in the Horse Gulch trail system.   It is invaluable to the area as it is close in and will be more so with the fairgrounds moved to the Grandview area.  I have enjoyed chatting with hikers, runners and bicyclists.   Please keep this area open for equestrian use.


To Whom It May Concern,

Thank you for asking for public comment on the Horse Gulch Management Plan.  As a member of First Presbyterian Church, I was very proud that this land was sold to the City to be preserved as open space and available for non-motorized recreational use.  As an equestrian, I am delighted that horse back riding continues to be a recognized use.  It is a perfect location for multi-use by bikers, hikers and equestrians.  Due to its proximity to town, I believe that mulit-use is critial for youth development in a variety of activities.  It is an amenity that makes Durango so special.

Please continue to support access for all types of non-motorized recreational users, including equestrians.

Thank you,


I am writing to encourage your plan for the Horse Gulch area as it stands, including equestrian use.  Although mountain bikes make horseback riding somewhat of a challenge, we are all trying to maintain mutual respect and keep our trails open for each other.  The Horse Gulch area is close in to Durango and is a fine riding venue, so thank you for your work in keeping this historic trail system open for the use of those who value our natural, quiet surroundings.


I am writing with regards to the Horse gulch Trail Systems.  I am very pleased that you have included horseback riding as one of the users within the trail systems.  I have ridden these trails with many girlfriends and we have had peaceful rides, faster rides and lots of good “down time” spend enjoying our horses and each other.  It is a good meeting area between those who live closer to Bayfield and those who live north/south and west of town.  It is a reason why Durango continues to stay so wonderful…it offers so many opportunities for all.

It will be a tremendous asset to the community especially when the fairground eventually gets relocated to the Grandview area.  The 4-H community will have trails assessable from the fairgrounds!   Their interests and talents can be nurtured with the opportunity these trails will offer to them.  It is so wise to include some western traditional usages on the trail system at Horse Gulch/Telegraph and Grandview area.

I appreciate the opportunity to comment on the trail systems and equally appreciate the fact you recognize equestrian use as a valuable component of the trail users!


Horse Gulch/ Telegraph and Grandview trails

Please make the trails available to equestrians. When the new fairgrounds happens, they will be a huge asset.

It’s great to be able to ride so close to town.


Let ‘r Buck!


Horse Gulch/Telegraph and Grandview Trail Systems.  We need to retain these for future enjoyment in the community.

Thank You


Good Afternoon,

Just want you to know how important we think it is to keep the Horse Gulch area multi-use for horses, bikes and hikers.  It is such an incredible asset to the community and one to be enjoyed by all.  It is especially important looking to the future if the equestrian area is moved to Grandview.  My granddaughter is six, already an ardent horsewoman, and it will give her an accessible and beautiful riding area.

Thank you for your consideration.


To Whom It May Concern,

This note is to serve as strong support for the equestrian use on the Horse Gulch/Telegraph and Grandview Trail systems.  We have a very strong basis of horse ownership in the County and trails such as these are very important to sustaining this population and revenue resource.  This revenue resource not only reflects permanent residents but 2nd home residents as well who have chosen Durango as a location where they can ride their horses during the warmer months in their primary locations.  They bring a great deal of money into the local economy not only via real estate but also all of the infrastructure required by horse ownership.


 Please let this note be considered in deciding the use of the Horse Gulch/Telegraph and Grandview Trail Systems. They have been historical equestrian use areas and need to continue as such. The western cowboy culture is alive and well in Durango and La Plata County. It is one of the reasons we relocated here. We own three horses and are active members of the 4Corners Backcountry Horsemen. When the fairgrounds are relocated, the horse community will be valuable to this venue and these trails will have an increased need to be open for equestrian use.

Thank you,


This is to let you know that myself & my family are active users of the Equestrian trail systems in Durango/La Plata county. Please consider equestian access to these trails in any future construction and expansion.

Many Thanks,


To whom it may concern:

I am an avid horseback rider in this area and would like to advocate strongly for sharing the trail system among multi-users.

I am pleased to see that the plan recognizes the Telegraph and Horse Gulch Trail System is used extensively for non-motorized activities such as hiking, trail running, horseback riding, and mountain biking.

As a horseback rider, my friends and I enjoy riding the Telegraph and Horse Gulch Trail System. I would like to see it continue to be managed as a multiple use facility for the non-motorized users recognized in the description of the area. Notwithstanding the extensive use of the trail system by mountain bikers, it is a prime location for equine use as well. I firmly believe that horsemen, hikers, and bikers can coexist on this trail system with a mutual respect for one another.

There are many youthful equine enthusiasts in Durango and La Plata County who need this area to pursue their interest. Many of these users keep their horses at the La Plata County Fairgrounds. In the not too distant future, the fairground facilities will move to a location near Grandview which will have better access to the Grandview Ridge/Horse Gulch areas. Having an area to ride will go a long ways toward preserving an American tradition for generations.

Thank you for your attention.



I’d just like to throw my vote in for continued equestrian presence and protections on the Horse Gulch trail system.  Non-motorized equestrian-accesible trails are important in this community, for my family and others.  Thank you,


 Hello to all…

Here in La Plata County, we have a rich and longstanding history of being able to enjoy a lifestyle with our horses that is completely unavailable to so many of our fellow horse owners in other areas.

It is of utmost importance to all horse people in our community that we maintain and preserve that privilege for future generations who follow.  The accessibility of the Horse Gulch trail  and the Trails Two Thousand trail system to the potential future Fairgrounds in the Grandview Area and it’s possible trail system must be considered and ensured now while this is still in the planning stage. I wholeheartedly agree with the forward thinking comments regarding the future of our equestrian generations to come. While we horse people are not always as organized or vocal as some groups, we are a strong part of our community’s heritage and very protective of our right to continue to enjoy our wonderful piece of Colorado as we have always done, from the back of our horse.

Our family moved to Ewing Mesa over 20 yrs ago.` With seven riders in our family living up here for all these years, few people have been on the trails over Telegraph Hill and on Ewing Mesa more than our family. Our grandchildren grew up riding these trails and our family has been privileged to train, condition and enjoy our performance horses on these trails. We’ve enjoyed sharing the trails with those who could find, or make, the time to ride/hike these trails, as well.

My husband was the General Manager for Oakridge Energy for more than 18 years.  Both he and Noel Pautsky (owner of Oakridge Energy) were convinced that hikers, bikers and horsemen/women could and should enjoy and share the trails on Ewing Mesa equally.  When the easement was granted to Trail’s 2000, across Oakridge property, the absolute and clearly stated intent was exactly that…. to ensure that Horsemen/women, Hikers and Bikers (non motorized) would share and enjoy the use of these trails equally. For the most part, that is what has happened. It is my most sincere hope and expectation that the committee for the Horse Gulch Management Plan will have the same forethought and generosity for all concerned users and that we may all continue to enjoy our natural blessings.

We all need to work together now and in the future, to make certain that the gift of these trails, along with the Trails 2000 system across Ewing Mesa, made possible by Mr. Pautsky’s generosity in dedicating these trails to ‘Trail’s 2000’, is not compromised or dishonored. It would be a great injustice to restrict the use of these trails to only one or two interests to the determent of any one of the other intended beneficiaries. I have confidence that no one will disregard Mr. Pautsky’s generosity and good will toward our community by doing that.


 I’ve lived in the Durango area since 1971 and have seen the community evolve. Sadly, the “Old West” heart and soul is glimpsed only rarely anymore. This spirit however, is strongly alive and well in the equestrian community. Please don’t shut us out of the trail systems. I strongly support equestrian use on the Horse Gulch/Telegraph and Grandview Trail systems. On many levels wide and deep, equestrian use of the trails is a tremendous asset to the community.

Thank you for considering my opinion,


Ladies and Gentlemen:

I am pleased to see that the plan recognizes the Telegraph and Horse Gulch Trail System is used extensively for non-motorized activities such as hiking, trail running, horseback riding, and mountain biking.

As a horseback rider I enjoy riding the Telegraph and Horse Gulch Trail System. I would like to see it continue to be managed as a multiple use facility for the non-motorized users recognized in the description of the area. I believe that horsemen, hikers, and bikers can coexist on this trail system with a mutual respect for one another.

There are many equine enthusiasts in Durango and La Plata County who need this area to pursue their interest. Some of these users keep their horses at the La Plata County Fairgrounds. There are future plans for the fairground facilities to move to a location near Grandview which will have better access to the Grandview Ridge/Horse Gulch areas. Having an area to ride will go a long ways toward preserving an American tradition for generations.


To Whom It May Concern,

I send to you this e-mail to strongly support equestrian use on the Horse Gulch/Telegraph and Grandview trail system.

I had the pleasure of being on the Fair Grounds Commission back in the early 80’s. During that time we tried hard to move the fairgrounds out to Grandview, missed a deal with Walmart. If it is ever moved out to Grandview, I do believe that this trail system would even be more useful than it is currently. Also moving the Fairgrounds, I do believe, would help increase use and commerce of this entire area.

Thank You,


To Whom It May Concern:

As residents of the City of Durango and horse owners, we have ridden our horses on the Horse Gulch trail system, and welcome the opportunity to comment on the use of this trail system.  Horse Gulch lends itself well for equestrian use and we have very much enjoyed our rides there.  Horses and the folks who ride them have played an important role in Durango’s past and continue to do so to this day, helping to promote Durango’s western heritage.  We believe the Horse Gulch area should be available for use by equestrians now and also in the future.


Hi. I would just like to voice my support for equestrian use on the Horse Gulch and Grandview trail systems. Durango has a long heritage of stock use and I think we want to maintain that Western image in Durango. Also, since the Fairgrounds is probably going to move to Grandview it would make sense to have horse trails that go out from the Grandview area.


Dear Cathy:

The Four Corners Backcountry Horseman would like to fully support the Horse Gulch/Telegraph trails management draft. Keeping this area as a non motorized trail system is an asset to the community. Recognizing equestrian use on the trail system keeps our western traditions alive and vibrant. The trail system will be an incredible asset especially to our future 4H community when the fairgrounds are eventually moved to the Grandview Area.

We as individual equestrians and members of the 4CBH use these trails and find them very manageable with the other trail users. We applaud the efforts to keep equestrians part of this dynamic trail community. We look forward to being part of the management opportunities for these trails now and for many years to come.


To whom it may concern:

Please note that the equestrian community is such a historic part of the Durango area both with agriculture and pleasure.  The Horse Gulch trail proposal needs to recognize the that horse/mule users do use the trail and with the Proposed New Equestrian it would be a perfect close place to ride on a trail with out trailering.

We appreciate the time spent on this.


Please keep the Horse Gulch trails open to horses as we move forward.


The Four Corners Back Country Horsemen would like to fully support the Horse Gulch Open Space Management Plan. Keeping this area as a natural and non-motorized trail system is an asset to the community.  Recognizing equestrian use on the trail system keeps our western traditions alive and vibrant.  The trail system will be an incredible asset to many user groups, especially to our future 4H community when the fairgrounds are eventually moved to the Grandview Area, as the trails would be directly available for riding from the new site.

We as individual equestrians and members of the 4CBCH use these trails and find them very manageable with the other trail users.  We applaud the efforts to keep Horse Gulch protected as it is so close to the pressures of the city, and to keep equestrians as part of this dynamic trail community.  We look forward to playing an active roll in the future in this lovely high desert area.


I read the draft for Horse Gulch Management. I support the Equestrian Access–this area hosts a unique combination of world class endurance riders as well as other enthusiasts and trainers and one of the draws to living and working in the area is the easy access to good trails to condition and train our horses on. Thanks for including horses in your consideration of this trail system.


Please look at the reasons to keep all trails open to all users.  We all need to Share the Trails at all times no matter who wants to be out and enjoy the beauty of the place we all call home.



Thank you for requesting comments from the public on the draft Management Plan for Horse Gulch Open Space Management.

The Telegraph and Horse Gulch Trail System is used extensively for non-motorized activities such as hiking, trail running, horseback riding, and mountain biking and should remain as such. As one of the few in town trail networks it is important to preserve this resource and keep it in a more primitive state.

Over the years I have had the pleasure of using the area in most of its allowed activities, including horseback riding which I strongly encourage you to  support even though mountain biking may be more prominent. As with other areas, with proper signage and education, all  non-motorized users can co-exist successfully.  There may be a few trails there that are not suitable or could be dangerous for horses and these could be marked as such. However overall it is a great system for equine use and its value will only increase over time as the Grandview area further develops and county wide trail systems become more viable. As a property owner and tax payer, I encourage you to please continue to support and maintain horse use wherever possible as part of our areas heritage.

Thank you again for maintaining this area,



I love Horse Gulch trails.  They are the treasure of Durango.  There is quite a bit of space to develop significantly more trail than there exist today.  Much of this system could be enhanced with contour trails below existing trails off the main horse gulch ridges.  Over the years the various gravel businesses have degraded the experience in the trail system with the need to reroute the trail system.

I would be happy to see the amount of gravel excavation businesses curtailed in this wonderful outdoor resource area.


Horse Gulch is great the way it is, except that it is trashed. Organized trash collection would be beneficial. Although I am sympathetic to the homeless situation, I would prefer more enforcement to minimize the squatters and partiers. I DO NOT want more enforcement on dogs. It is a convenient local dog romp. I have been going up there for 15 years and have rarely had a negative encounter with other dogs.

Trails 2000 has done an amazing job of creating and maintaining trails.



I offer this comment  regarding the use of the above referenced area. It is pleasing that the plan will include use by varyious non motorized activities including hiking, biycling and horseback trail riding. It is imperative that we all develop acceptance of multiple uses on our public lands. As time goes by, I have observed  the attitude of participants in all of these activities are more acccepting and sharing with different types of users.  We will all come to realize our public lands are for multiple uses and not the property of any one discipline.

The second thought I mention is made as a private citizen that enjoys bicycling and horseback riding. Please accept this letter as a comment from a individual citizen and not as a representative of any group or organization. I have served for over two years on the LaPlata County task force that is attempting to locate a Multiuse facility on BLM owned land that currently is used for C&J Gravel mining operations. This property is adjacent to a parcel of land owned by the county. Currently, a proposal has been made to BLM for the county to acquire use of the BLM parcel. The use of these parcels has been addressed by the task force. One of the planned uses is a trail connection from the County’s facility to the Horse Gulch trail system. I urge the City of Durango’s recreation plans to work with LaPlata County in order to make the entire area accomodating to all of the mentioned users.


Dear Sirs,

Thank you very much for the opportunity to provide comment on the draft Horse Gulch Management Plan.  I am particularly thrilled you recognize the importance to maintain the property in its natural state and for wildlife values. I am also thrilled you embrace non-motorized recreational multiple use of trails on the property that includes walking, hiking, jogging, bicycling, cross-country skiing, snow shoeing and horseback riding.

I am a professional horse outfitter who have ridden the trails in Horse Gulch. It is fitting that horses be allowed to continue its historical use in an area named “Horse Gulch”. It is fitting that horses are allowed to use these trails going forward into the future when the proposed location for a new fairgrounds may be connected. To be able to empower youth to ride horses and be responsible for their care is a great life experience. It is my hope pack horses will be used to support trail maintenance work in the area. This provides an opportunity for unfamiliar people to learn the value for how these animals can carry loads in hard-to-reach locations.

In Part V Specific Management Policies, Number 4; it states that all uses on the property shall be subject to City Park and Open Space rules and regulations, and that the City shall be responsible for enforcement of all regulations. It goes on to list the uses specifically prohibited on the property of which I am particularly interested in the item Dogs off leash.

Everyone can agree Durango is a dog-loving community just like it is a bike-loving community. The bike-loving community is working hard to make Durango a bike-friendly city. The dog-loving community should hope Durango and the surrounding areas can be a dog-friendly place.

I am a dog owner who agrees the rule is prudent for the in-town Animas River Trail and parks to be managed dogs on leash only (dog park is exception). I encourage you to re-consider your draft to allow dogs to be off-leash under voice-control in Horse Gulch; an area that sees much less activity than in-town locations. There are adequate laws and remedies on many levels to protect victims from unreasonable negligence by irresponsible dog owners. When was the last time a dog incident needed to be reported in our community? Almost never.  In Colorado dogs can be shot for harassing wildlife and livestock. I recall the most recent report in the Durango Herald was about a wildlife officer shooting a dog that was harassing a cow elk. I have experience having to shoot a dog in the face who was on attack three feet from me after I witnessed it chasing my cattle for over an hour. It was a town dog who traveled miles up the Animas River bottom to our ranch north of Durango without his master.

National Forest lands allow dogs to be off-leash under voice-control, the exception being in Wilderness Areas where the rule states dogs are required to be on-leash. I am not surprised this rule is not followed nor enforced.  I keep informed what occurs on public lands.  I am not aware there is growing concern for threatening dogs off-leash on back country public lands; the one exception being herding dogs used to guard sheep herds have clashed with other forest users. I attended the Durango meeting to discuss this. Education is being advocated. I can say I have traveled horseback thousands of miles on public lands for 34 years and I can only report 2 cases in which the owners did not set up their dogs to do right. There was no skin off my nose.

Please do not lose sight that we Americans value their liberties. Most Americans act responsibly and know there are consequences if they do not.  I think bicycle and horse riders in our community should be given the benefit of the doubt to act responsibly with voice-controlled dogs. Who thinks it is fun to go out recreating without their dog? Please consider writing flexibility into the plan to make rule changes if Durango dog owners prove me wrong or it becomes prudent if Horse Gulch becomes used like a city park.

Good horses are tired horses. The same is true for dogs. The more horses and dogs are exercised, the more their behavior improves. The more often we set up our horses and dogs to be good, the greater the chance they become very good horses and very good dogs; maybe even excellent horses and dogs. I hope you will consider the notion a dog-friendly place will likely result in a happy community of people with very good dogs.

Best regards,


Hello there.

I am writing concerning the Horse Gulch Open Space Management Plan.

While I do acknowledge the validity of certain management plans of outdoor spaces that have been preserved for the public I have some serious reservations about some of the specifics of the current draft that has been posted on the City of Durango website.

The point I am most concerned about is not allowing dogs off-leash.

As a life long resident of Durango I am very proud of our open space and trail system which is world-class.  Also, I know that there are sometimes wildlife interactions with pets and people that need to be mitigated through education.  However, I think that requiring people to leash their dogs on all trails in Horse Gulch would be an extreme ruling.  People and pets need their places to go to be able to run not just at the Dog park.

Currently the system is doing fine through the hard work of many people such as trails 2000 and others.  Giving Horse Gulch Open Space so many restrictions would really affect the feeling and characteristic of the area and is not indicative and characteristic of the Durango that I know- why now change a good thing?

Thank you for your time,


To whom it may concern,

I am a distance runner and have run almost daily with my 2 dogs in the Horse Gulch area for over 10 years.  Keeping 2 dogs on leash on single track while running 10-15 miles is neither practical nor necessary.  They are well trained, well socialized and under voice command.  Many people bike with their dogs, which is not conducive to keeping a dog on a leash.  I have never had an incident with another dog.  Our closest call has been with rattlesnakes right beside the trail – a leash would not have helped prevent snake-bite.  My dogs would provide protection in the unlikely event of a mountain lion encounter, and also are a deterrent against attack by miscellaneous homeless people – leaving them home is not an option.  Having them on leash is also not an option.

Please make allowances for dogs to be under voice control and not necessarily on a leash.


 The management plan seams to represent my interest for the trail system, I use the space to enjoy the quiet and solitude that is their as it exists today. Generally I access the trail with a mountain bike, I also enjoy running and hiking with my kids in horse Gulch.

however, I disagree with the need to have dogs on a leash in an area that encompasses 3,600 acres.  It seems that enforcement of voice control for dogs is safe.

lastly and most important !  I would like to encourage the adoption of language that would exclude the building of any roads to service Mercy regional medical center or any other future needs.  Any road through the open space or trail system would greatly diminish the value of the trail system and the experience of all the future users. Keep the cars out ! Don’t they already have enough places to drive?

Thank you for your attention to this important matter,


Dear Ms. Metz,

Please keep the Horse Gulch area available for equestrian use.  I have ridden those trails often and enjoy the fact that they are within a 15 minute drive from my home.


Please keep horse gulch open to equestrian use for us in the future.

Thank you


Please find attached our comments regarding the Horse Gulch master trail system.  We understand that you are in the process of planning for this trail system.

We write this comment letter in support of allowing equestrian use on the Horse

Gulch Master Trail system. Our logic for such support is as follows:

1. The future planned location of the County Fairgrounds/ equestrian center is

where C and J Gravel is currently located, which is adjacent to the Horse

Gulch trail system. It would be very important, not to mention convenient,

for the Fairgrounds/ equestrian users to have access to the Horse Gulch trail


How could the planners of Durango, honestly explain to horse uses with a

clear conscience that they are not allowed on a trail system that is

conveniently adjacent to the planned equestrian center? Wow, this would be

a hard pill to swallow for the equestrian community?

2. The success of Durango is based on a diverse background of interests.

However, the true history of Durango is its Western Culture. Not allowing

equestrian use on the Horse Gulch trail system would be inconsistent with

Durango’s History and legacy. Durango certainly was not pioneered or

settled by mountain bikers. Horses played an incredible history in the

settlement of Durango.

3. Hikers, mountain bikers and equestrian users successfully co‐exist on many

trails in the San Juan National Forest. As such, the same can be true on the

Horse Gulch master trail system.

4. The Horse Gulch Trail system could serve as an educational trail system

center, for the lack of a better term, to teach multiple users how to

appropriately conduct themselves.

5. Having multiple trail users on a local municipal trail system, such as Horse Gulch,

serves as an important “mentor or model trail “ so that trail users will know how

to act appropriately when recreating in the National Forest. In other words,

The City of Durango should set an example of how multiple trail users can Coexist

in the National Forest.

6. Trail user demographics can change significantly from one decade to

another. Today, mountain bikers may be at their peak use. In the near

future, as the baby boomers age, hiking and horseback users will increase.

Thus, it is important to have a master trail plan than can be flexible to meet

changing trail user demographics.

Pete Turner is a fifth generation Durango local whereby his relatives came to La

Plata County with the Baker Party (Bakers Bridge). Pete has lived in Durango all

of his life.

Pete and Lisa Turner have owned and operated an outfitting business, which

involved lots of horseback riding time. We are also very avid mountain bikers.

Therefore, we can see this issue from two different and varying perspectives.

As much as we love mountain biking, we also know that horses should be

allowed on the trail system in Horse Gulch. It is the right thing to do. It is


In the long run, it is much better for all non‐motorized trail users to co‐exist on

a multi purpose trail system rather than eliminate one user group.

In summary, we are in favor 100%, to allow equestrian use in the Horse Gulch

master trail system. The Horse Gulch Trail System should remain nonmotorized.


Dear Cathy,

As the name might imply, “Horse Gulch” needs to remain open to equestrian use. With the location of the new fairgrounds in the works, it only seems logical to tie the two together. Your time is much appreciated in this long lasting decision.


Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Draft Horse Gulch Open Space Management Plan.  Please accept the following comments/suggestions.

General Comments

In general, I feel that the draft plan adopts a healthy approach to managing what many consider to be one of Durango’s greatest and most highly utilized outdoor assets. The draft plan identifies the various user groups and balances their needs with the more fundamental need to protect and preserve the natural state of the area, ensuring that soils, flora and fauna are all preserved for their own sake as well as to enhance the experience of the different user groups.

The draft plan also acknowledges the various City, County, BLM and private interests in the open space and surrounding area, commits to a cooperative engagement with those entities, and respectfully adopts the management and development restrictions that come along with those entities’ involvement/ownership. The draft plan also highlights the existence of three separate conservation easements within the open space area, and in fact, adopts the management guidelines and criteria from those easements as the baseline for the open space management plan.

Where the draft plan falls short, in my opinion, is in planning for and prioritizing additional acquisitions to expand upon and improve the recreational area. More detailed comments below.

VI.          Management Objectives

•           Acquisition of new properties adjacent to the existing open space and recreational area should be included as a defined “management objective.” While acquisition is mentioned further down in the draft plan (at V.5.E.), it warrants inclusion in the management objectives as well.

V.            Specific Management Policies

•           V.4 Along with the prohibition against unauthorized construction of new trails, berms, lean-tos etc, will the City be removing existing non-compliant structures or trails?  I don’t really have a specific recommendation for how to deal with this, but am curious how it was handled in drafting of this document.

o          Structures: The presence of existing structures (lean-tos, forts etc) would appear to legitimize their existence and encourage further construction. On one hand, taking them down, a relatively easy task, may discourage their proliferation. On the other, it may inadvertently initiate a losing battle as people accept the challenge of rebuilding and building new structures, also an easy task given the remote location and unlikelihood of being caught.

o          Trails, Berms etc: Obliterating trails is a more difficult task, and given the high usage by mountain bikers in particular and probability that the trails will continue to be used even if blocked off, likely a losing battle.  Perhaps an effort to recognize, adopt and maintain existing “renegade” trails into the system, together with a better effort to discourage further unauthorized trail construction would be the best approach here. (see comments on V.5.C. below)

•           V.5.A. Question: Is the City taking on all new trail construction and existing trail maintenance, or is Trails 2000 fulfilling that role in part? If the latter, perhaps include an acknowledgement of Trails 2000 as a partner in this process.

•           V.5.B. Given the proposed development of the Medical Campus at the Horse Gulch Road entrance, a planned development recognized in this paragraph, the draft plan should incorporate lessons learned from an evaluation of the potential impacts of this this imminent development on the immediately adjacent open space area. It would be inappropriate to specifically tailor the draft plan in response to this proposed development, but guiding principles for dealing with this and future developments or other activity that will impact the open space and recreational areas could be gleaned from this current proposal and incorporated into the management plan.  Examples might include parking (already mentioned); landscaping; lighting; etc. Ultimately, it may be best to retain the flexibility of simply stating that such instances will be dealt with “as opportunities present themselves,” the current language, but don’t overlook the chance to identify and deal with up front, issues that the City will consistently want to address in similar situations.  Specifically, with respect to the planned development at the Horse Gulch entrance, don’t miss the opportunity to make this “Gateway” to a beloved local open space area and multi-use playground an attractive and inviting feature of our town.

•           V.B.C. Use signage to educate the public about conservation values; soil erosion; to discourage unauthorized trail building or modification; and to discourage cutting switchbacks. Include contact information for inquiries about making suggested improvements or for reporting unauthorized activities which may be overlooked by whatever monitoring procedure the City has put in place. Although it is outside of the open space management area, the Skyline Trail offers an example of how uneducated trail users cutting switchbacks undermines the hard work and efforts of those who built the trails in a way that minimizes erosion.

I would also love to see signage specifically discouraging people from modifying trails by removing obstacles to make passage easier. You could come up with fun and respectful language to point out that while that rock or root that may frustrate you on your mountain bike, presents a fun and challenging obstacle to many other riders. Encourage people to embrace the challenge of conquering these obstacles as their riding abilities improve, rather than removing rocks and roots to smooth the way. It is “mountain” biking after all.

•           V.6. Add “and for the purpose of maintaining quality trail conditions” to the list of reasons for possible temporary closures. This may be necessary in the early Spring when trails are muddy and heavy use, particularly by equestrians and bikes, can result in ruts and other damage to the trails, which given the soil composition tend to harden and persist for weeks or longer after the trails dry.

VI.          Stewardship

•           Again, with respect to the trails reference in this paragraph it may be appropriate to acknowledge partnership with Trails 2000?

•           May want to reiterate that to the extent that any of the open space lands fall within any of the three conservation easements, stewardship of those areas must adhere to the standards and conservation values expressed in those documents.

Overall, I like what you have done with this plan and look forward to the continued improvement and expansion of the Horse Gulch Open Space area.



Dear Ms. Metz,

I support keeping the Horse Gulch Land available for equestrian use.  Thank you.


Please allow off leash dogs.  No motorized vehicles.



Here are some bullet point thoughts and recommendations to be considered in the development and improvement of horse gulch.

>Parking Lot-  considering future increased usage in the future, the size and location of the existing are limiting.

—> Consider a single lane road up the existing trail through the canyon with pullouts to accommodate oncoming traffic.  Successful use of this can be see at  Andrews Lake on Molas Pass and at a very popular trail in Steamboat Springs called Spring creek.

Or:  consider using the road access to Ewing Mesa and developing a TH at what would be the Southern boarder of the meadow.  Allow the Existing TH to exist only as an access for foot traffic.

>Trails 2000 should not be considered a be all end all to trail maintenance and development.  For example, the inside loop of the meadow added 2 years ago is a poorly constructed after though because they had the trail building machine and  wanted to make use of it.  I can understand a bypass to the shale drop off the ridge, but the off camber turns and excessive switchbacks on that section render it nearly worthless.  Towns such as Sedona, AZ and Steamboat Springs, CO do an excellent job of adding new trails and maintaining existing with the help and input of many user groups.  My complaint about Trails 2000 is their continued over grooming of trails to make them easy and homogenized.  For example, the rock band step up that used to exist on the traverse from the meadow to the quarry the got widened and chiseled down to accommodate less skilled users even though it was very passable by the majority.  These trails are trails, not buffed out gravel paths that Denver would be proud of.  Don’t groom to the average.   Keep Durango hard!

Building a new trail should be more encouraged and not  require an act of congress.  Sedona is case in point that trail building can be done responsibly by multiple trails users and groups to create a cohesive and linked yet diverse trail system in town and within close proximity.  There is much potential remaining to expand Durango’s trail system, but limiting that development to be led by a group that does not readily accept input from outside users.  Many ideas for expansion could come to fruition with a bit more of an open mind than Trails 2000 has had in the past.

Though Horse Gulch is only one of many trail systems in town,  it is the keystone around which the others function.  I thank you, the City, for this step in the improvement of the system for the future.  Durango has been and will continue to be a proving ground for has beens and up and coming athletes alike.  Please listen to these people out the getting after it for how to manage and expand the existing trail systems.


Hi Cathy-

Scott Perez has been focusing his efforts on the Snowdown Wine Tasting benefit event tonight and asked that I send you a quick note regarding the Horse Gulch Management Plan.  I’m on the LPOSC Board.

As we understand it, the Public Comment period on the Management Plan ends today. Presumably, the City would make modifications to the plan based on the public input received, if appropriate. The management plan is important to ensure the protection and enhancement the Conservation Values described in the Easements, so LPOSC has a vested interest in the Plan and the on the ground management. Therefore, we felt that LPOSC’s comprehensive review of the Management Plan would be most effective if we focused our efforts on the “revised” version.

We looked forward to continuing to work with you and the City, as a Partner, in protection and preservation of these wonderful resources.

Please let Scott or I know if you have any questions or concerns.



Dear Natural Lands Preservation Advisory Board,

My comments on the Draft Horse Gulch Open Space Management Plan are directed specifically towards number four under the specific management policies (V., page 3) in the document.

Among the uses and activities that the Draft Plan prohibits on the property are fires of any kind, which, for a rural landscape, brings the question as to which kinds of fires are specifically prohibited.

If the Draft Plan is talking about the prohibition of campfires in order to prevent fire rings and the harvesting of firewood, that is one reason behind the land management policy.

If the prohibition also includes prescribed fires or naturally started fires for resource benefit, then what is the logic behind such a short-sighted, broad-encompassing fire management policy?

We know from historical perspective that the policy of excluding and suppressing all wildfires on rural landscapes can lead to the build up of volatile fuel loading that when later ignited, can be difficult to control and have severe impacts to both the forest ecosystem, as well as local communities.

Fire can be used to safely reduce fuel loading in Horse Gulch through the practices of either broadcast burning—laying fire broadly underneath live oak or timber stands—or through pile burning, which fire managers often do after piling up the slash in to manageable piles from hand thinning an area with chainsaws and letting it cure for several weeks.

Afterwards, fire managers will wait for the right weather conditions to light the piles, such as a few inches of snowfall, where the risk of fire carrying through ground fuels outside of the slash piles is minimal.

Most recently in our community, the BLM completed a successful pile burning project on Animas City Mountain using these same tactics.

If hand thinning followed by pile burning is used as a means to controlling fuel loading, the weeds would need to soon after be suppressed on those pile burn scars, due to the increased susceptibility of exotic thistles taking root there.

Speaking subjectively from the past 10 years of fire management experience, the post effect of using broadcast burning as a means of controlling fuel loading in Horse Gulch could be more aesthetically pleasing than mechanical treatments for such a highly-trafficked area. I think that lands treated with fire usually look better immediately following the treatment than those done with hydro axes or masticators, which tend to leave broken branches hung up in trees, excessive soil disturbances from the tires or tracks on the masticator, and frayed scrub oak stubs sticking out of the ground.

Mastication is the process of using heavy mobile machinery to basically grind up brush and trees into mulch while simultaneously spreading it across the landscape violently.

We also know that wildfire has the ability to introduce nitrogen back into the soil more quickly than mastication, while also increasing the pH there, thus increasing the availability of calcium in the soil as a means of improving its fertility.

Plus, the anticipation of fungus being able to quickly utilize and brake down activity fuels following mastication treatments was disproven by research technicians at Northern Arizona University.

Humans have suppressed fire on this landscape quite possibly for about the past 100 years, with little benefit to the long-term ecological health of Horse Gulch. While humans with their surrounding structures and properties may have benefited from the suppression of wildfires on this landscape, the exact opposite effect can be seen for the health of wildlife, vegetation and soils that exist there.

For example, allowing a controlled or naturally started wildfire to punch a mosaic of holes in the pinon/juniper forest canopy can increase edge habitat for wildlife by providing sunny openings for native grasses and wild flowers to grow, thus increasing the biodiversity across the landscape.

In summary, I think that the policy of prohibiting fires of any kind, as stated in the Draft Plan, should be eliminated or at least changed to only prohibit campfires.

Thank You,


We would appreciate Horse Gulch area remaining leash free for the Durango public……  What  a plus to have that gorgeous area and not just the dog park available for runners, hikers and bikers to have their dogs accompany them.  The wide open area seems conducive to responsible dog owners to be leash free… well as pick up after their pups.


To Whom It May Concern:

Our firm represents Jerry L. Dalla, a landowner affected by the Horse Gulch Open Space Management Plan (hereinafter “Plan”).  Mr. Dalla has requested that I comment on the Plan on his behalf.

Mr. Dalla has no problems per se with the management portions of the Plan, and indeed encourages the active management and policing of the area.  However, Mr. Dalla has requested that I remind the City that much of the trail system located on the elongated finger running out of the top of the City owned property to the northeast traverses property owned by Mr. Dalla.  That trail was allowed to be located on the Dalla property pursuant to a License Agreement entered into between Mr. Dalla, the City of Durango and Trails 2000 dated March 30, 2009 and filed for record with the La Plata County Clerk and recorder on August 6, 2009 at Reception No. 1001278.  All future uses of the trail on Mr. Dalla’s property, and resulting management of the trails traversing Mr. Dalla’s property under the Plan, are regulated by the terms of that License Agreement.

Thank you.



I would like to submit my comments:

* Dogs allowed off-leash

* No motorized vehicles

Thank you,


if not too late i thought of 1 more thing.  a polite sign mentioning how equestrian & bike use of muddy trails ruins the trails.  mountain biker are well aware but i am not sure if horsemen are.  hoof prints really damage the trails & make them difficult to ride for much longer than bike tire ruts.  if we could raise awareness about horse staying off muddy trails it would be great.  thanx.


I hope it’s not too late to make my opion known on Horse Gulch.  I use to ride there all the time in my younger years…I do hope you keep it open for the next generation and their equestrian friends!


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