Forest’s plan includes new restrictions on motorcycles

Wednesday, May 11, 2016 3:19 PM
Use of these the roads and trails traversing these mountains are being analyzed during the Rico-West Dolores Travel Management plan for the U.S. Forest Service.
A mule trail crew crosses a stream along the Calico Trail.

Between the West Fork and Lizard Head Pass are hundreds of miles of trails and roads available for recreation on the San Juan National Forest.

In a draft travel management plan for the Rico-West Dolores area, forest officials are proposing various changes for single-track motorcycle use.

Public comment is being sought until June 20. A draft decision will then be announced, followed by an objection period and decision by the Dolores District ranger.

There will be a community meeting on the different plans June 2 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Dolores Community Center.

Four options detail possible changes, in some cases taking away motorcycle access, and in others adding access. Additional ATV/UTV trails are also proposed.

The Journal met with Dolores District Ranger Derek Padilla and NEPA coordinator Debbie Kill to explain the options.

Go to and print out maps from pages 231 to 235 for the proposals. Map A is the no-change option and shows currently allowed uses, while B,C, D, and E are the options with changes.

Orange represents current and proposed motorcycle trails, and red shows the new ATV/UTV routes.

All designated roads will continue to allow motorized uses. The differences in the options are related to single-track motorcycle trail use and added ATV trails.

Access to Rico and Burnett CreekRico residents have expressed concerns about motorcyclists accessing town via the Burnett Creek trail and road, then riding through residential neighborhoods to reach Colorado Highway 145.

Motorcyclists have said that they value the convenient access to Rico from Burnett Creek.

To accommodate both concerns, alternatives C, D, and E propose to redirect motorcyclists from the Burnett Creek trail to the Rio Grande Southern Railroad bed via a new trail connector. From there they can cross the Montelores Bridge to Colorado 145 and ride a short distance north to Rico.

“There would be signs encouraging them to take the re-route in order to lessen the traffic into Rico neighborhoods,” Kill said.

Alternative B would eliminate motorcycle access from the west ridgeline into Rico by making Burnett Creek and Horse Creek nonmotorized.

Proposed closure at Calico TrailCurrent uses allow for single-track motorcycle use the entire length. Alternatives A, B, C, and D, preserve that use. Alternative E proposes to close the northern portion of the Calico Trail to motorized use from its junction with the Eagle Peak Trail to the northern Calico trailhead off Road 471.

The Winter Trail and a portion of Wildcat are now open to motorcycle use, but would close to all motorized use in all but alternative A.

Proposed Bear Creek restrictionsMotorcyclists currently can ride Bear Creek, little Bear Creek, Gold Run and Grindstone trails. But several alternatives propose to limit or eliminate their use there.

“You will see a theme in Bear Creek as you go across the alternatives,” Kill said. “It goes from what it is today with two-thirds of drainage open to motorcycles, to motorcycles allowed in one-third of the drainage, to just crossing the drainage, to completely nonmotorized.”

For example, alternative B proposes to close the lower Bear Creek trail to motorcycles, but keeps a middle section open for motorcycle access to the Little Bear trail, Gold Run and Grindstone.

Alternative C takes away Little Bear Creek from motorcycle use, but keeps Bear Creek trail access Gold Run and Grindstone. Alternatives D and E would close all of Bear Creek to motorized uses.

Ryman Creek and East Fork trailsRyman Creek and East Fork trails are currently open to single-track motorcycle use (alternative A). However, Ryman is proposed for closure to motorized in all of the other alternatives.

The East Fork remains open to motorcycles in alternative B, C and D, but they would be prohibited in alternative E.

Motorized trails addedThe forest proposes to open Loading Pen and Tenderfoot trails to motorcycle use in alternative C. They also propose linking Stoner Mesa with Taylor Mesa by extending the Spring Creek trail in alternatives C, D, and E.

Also new ATV/UTV trails are proposed in the alternatives, including on Taylor, at Lone Cone, Groundhog and Black Mesa. The widths will be increased from 50 inches to accommodate larger side by sides.

Forest officials are concerned about illegal off-road travel in the headwaters of Fish Creek. Boulders will be placed to prevent motorized use in the wetlands there.

New timing restrictionsCurrently there are none, but the forest service is proposing timing restrictions on motorized uses to benefit wildlife and hunters.

“After detailed analysis of elk habitat, we proposed the timing restrictions to enhance elk production periods in spring, and reduce conflicts with walk-in hunters in fall,” Padilla said.

In alternative B, motorcycle trail use would only be allowed from July 1 to Sept. 8, and ATV/UTV use on trails would be only allowed from July 1 to Nov. 30.

In alternative C, motorcycle use on trails would be extended from June 1 to Oct. 30. ATV/UTV would be allowed from June 1 to Nov. 30, except for proposed Black Mesa OHV loops would be closed on September 8.

“One of the things we are shooting for is maintaining motorized connections between the Mancos, Boggy, and Hesperus landscapes of the national forest,” Kill said.

Forest officials encourage comments and concerns that are specific to trails. A decision on a final plan could involve a hybrid of different alternatives, Padilla said.

To access the comment page for the proposals go to