A single-track motorcycle trail linking Basalt to Gypsum could be ready for bikers next year, a U.S. Forest Service official said Thursday.
Also Thursday, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission postponed for a month a decision on a $104,500 grant for the new trail. The money would support an environmental study of the area, according to a wildlife commission press release.
“Commissioners noted that the area is important big game habitat and requested that trails staff coordinate with wildlife managers to assess wildlife impact internally prior to supporting an outside study,” the release says.
The $146,500 plan to link the communities has “been in the hopper” for some time, said Jon Thompson, natural resource specialist with the Aspen Sopris Ranger District in the White River National Forest.
Improving the conditions of 9 miles of motorized trails linking Red Table Mountain and Basalt Mountain has been a priority for the local district, Thompson said.
Besides establishing the trail between Basalt and Gypsum, the proposal also calls for a designated parking area at the entrance to Red Table Forest Service Road 514, a grant summary says.
The proposal was submitted to the wildlife commission’s trails committee in December. It says existing routes, including old logging roads and social trails that have not yet been identified as belonging to the legal system, would be incorporated with newly designated trails to form the single track to Gypsum. The goal is to establish a “logical motorized system,” the summary says.
The work on the Roaring Fork Valley side will likely involve linking about 6 to 8 miles of existing motorized trails. The mileage is dependent on the environmental study.
The study, part of the required National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process that the Forest Service will go through, involves analyses by wildlife biologists, archaeologists, soil scientists and aquatic biologists.
“We’ll have several specialists who will need to get out in the field to look at areas that we’re considering to put in this new alignment,” Thompson said.
The trail as planned would link up with small motorized trails outside Gypsum.
“By adding just a few more miles on national forest system land, we could access up to 100 more miles on other land,” including on Bureau of Land Management property, Thompson said.
Public comment will be taken under the NEPA process, which will begin “upon notification of the grant award,” the summary says.
“Reconstruction and reroutes on newly created system routes ... will begin in the fall of 2012,” according to the proposal. “In the summer of 2013, reconstruction and reroutes will continue on system routes, bringing 6 miles of trail up to standard.”
The area in question already is designated for motorized backcountry recreation in the district’s forest management plan, and “we feel it is suitable for off-highway vehicle traffic,” Thompson said.