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Wednesday November 20th 2019

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Trails on Boulder Open Space


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As Blue Line readers know,  a tremendous amount of citizen work has gone into establishing Boulder’s Blue Line and also into the acquisition of our Open Space.  We, who came here later, appreciated and supported our exceptional environment.  Through our 40 years here we voted to tax ourselves and we voted for all the bond issues to purchase open space.

To preserve and conserve has never been easy, but it has become more difficult recently. Our beloved mountain trails are overused.  Conservation of the natural environment is compatible with low impact recreation, but it has never been intended that trails be created for mechanized travel routes through designated open space.

Until recently the Boulder Mountain Bike Alliance (BMA) website stated their goal of no trails closed to mountain biking. When new trails were constructed south of Eldorado Springs the BMA successfully persuaded Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) to open all but 1.2 miles of the new trails to mountain bikes.  Bikes were to yield to hikers and equestrians, but that rarely happens. As a result, few hikers frequent these lovely trails. Bikers and runners use the Spring Brook Loop (SBL) trails but families with children or hikers in search of quiet walks abandoned them. As a result, not surprisingly, OSMP staff reports minimal conflicts between bikers and hikers.

Hikers and conservationists need to be considered.  On narrow trails biking and hiking are not compatible on the same trail at the same time.

Some Boulder County trails are closed to biking one weekday and one day on the weekend. This still allows bikes 70% of the time, a possible solution for the SBL trails.

The Parks and Recreation Department has begun constructing a new 45-acre Valmont Bike Park at the cost of $ 4.1 million.  According to the department, 85% of the cost is borne by Boulder taxpayers.

Most of us have not been aware of these changes until the BMA demanded a trail through the Open Space in an area west of Broadway from Chautauqua to Eldorado Springs.  As studied by environmental professionals, this is an area of unusual natural flora and beauty. Those of us who spoke to hikers at the various trailheads found that 90%, some mountain bikers themselves, were opposed to this idea.

At a time when money is short and open space purchases are difficult it is important that our city departments consider public opinion and help conserve Boulder’s unique beauty for which so many worked so hard to preserve.

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3 Responses to “Trails on Boulder Open Space”

  1. Jeffrey Flynn says:

    Thank you so much for writing this article. It’s funny, isn’t it, how all of a sudden the information about every trail needs to be opened disappeared from their website when this trail access became an issue? It’s also funny how they managed to get 85% of 4.1 million dollars for their bike park., almost be stealth. This should have been something that was debated by city council. I was watching that night on TV and one guy went up to the lecturn, said a little something, and all the council members hands shot up in support without any debate. I support your belief that the remaining trails should not be open to the mountain bikes. Jeffrey Flynn

  2. Jason Vogel says:

    I think it’s time to stop with the conspiracy theories. It is neither accurate nor particularly effective in the political arena.

    Fact: The “no trails closed to mountain bikes” comment on our website specifically meant “no additional closures.” BMA has never requested all trails open to bikes and never will as it would be irresponsible and lead to such a backlash against us that we’d frankly have to be idiots to suggest it. As soon as that interpretation of the “no trails closed” was brought to my attention, I had the language on the website changed. Spreading misinformation is not useful for a civilized debate among differing points of view. We’ve done our part by removing the offending language. The next step is up to you.

    Fact: You show a picture of a trail on this article that looks 5 feet wide. Bikes are not allowed on that trail. Impacts are a real concern, but relegating it to “a bike issue” shows too little concern for the impact that all human use has on open space. Look at the big picture and solve the real problems. Don’t neglect the real issues by pretending that they are only caused by bikes. The existing trail system wasn’t “designed” at all and what little science exists shows bikes to be as “low impact” an activity as hiking.

    Fact: BMA has worked for over 10 years with the Parks and Rec department to make Valmont Bike Park a reality. We raised some $500,000 to support the park. Nobody has ever raised that kind of money to support the Parks and Rec Dept before. When speaking of softball fields, swimming pools, or baseball diamonds, nobody complains that 100% “of the cost is bourne by Boulder taxpayers.” It saddens me that the initiative taken by the Boulder mountain biking community to put our money and volunteer time toward a community good is being used as a tool to show that we are somehow selfish. Furthermore, the majority of the costs that you cite go toward things like parking lots, sidewalks, regional paths, and relocating and restoring the historic Platt Farmhouse. I think something like $1.5 million of the total costs are going toward things that can be accurately called bike-specific. If that is the case, our community raised over 1/3 of the total costs of all the bike specific features of the park. Furthermore, the Park will serve families and all of the citizens of Boulder and be an economic boon to the city. It is going to be an awesome addition to our town. You are welcome for all the hard work we have done to improve the City of Boulder for all residents.

    Fact: Displacement from the Springbrook loop trail is a red herring. Yes, user conflict is a real issue and BMA is prepared to bring solutions to the table. But there were no designated trails in the Springbrook area prior to this trail being built. Consequently, your argument that we displaced users is specious. It was BMA that asked OSMP to leave 1.2 miles of trail “hiker only.” You are welcome for considering your desire for a bike-free experience to be a valid concern. Note that you can also cross the road and access some 150 miles of designated and social trails that are currently hiker only. Also note that the Springbrook trail is the only OSMP trail that bikes have access to that allows us to ride through a forest (for about 1 mile) and allows us to have views of the Flatirons (something all Boulderites yearn for). Please stop trying to take that away from us. It’s so little to give for such a large constituency supporting open space.

    Fact: You suggest that on narrow trails hiking and biking are incompatible. Your trail experience may be spoiled if you have to share, but this is not the case for the many thousands of visitors to city and county open space that utilize shared use trails for both hiking and biking and report very little conflict. Nevertheless, BMA respects your desire for a bike-free experience and has proposed opening up only a tiny amount of open space trails to bikes, and that for the purpose of getting us quickly away from the city core to areas with lower user density without having to use our cars – note the important sustainability goal here. Expect a new blue line article soon with details on our ask.

    • admin says:

      Editor’s note: The image is a stock image, supplied by the Blue Line, of a runner on a Boulder trail. The image was not provided by the article’s author.

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