In the latest park project planned for this year, the Cortez Parks, Recreation and Forestry advisory council on Friday discussed possible improvements to the trails in the Carpenter and Geer natural areas.
Al Schneider, a local wildflower expert, spoke to the council about the importance of protecting the wildlife in the parks and reducing the damage done by cyclists and hikers who leave the trail. The council discussed possibilities for improving trail maintenance and signage in the area. Although the council didn’t decide a course of action at the meeting, Parks and Recreation director Dean Palmquist said he plans to apply for a Great Outdoors Colorado grant to pay for trail improvements.
Schneider said there are about 120 species of plant life in the Geer and Carpenter natural areas, and as trail traffic increases, more of those plants have been trampled and damaged. As an example, he mentioned the Geer Park Trail series of foot races, which ended May 6, and how someone had sprayed potentially harmful paint on the ground to mark the race route.
“My concern is that the area be maintained and kept in the best shape it possibly can,” Schneider said. “I think that some good trail maintenance is really needed.”
He said hikers and cyclists may find themselves at cross purposes on the narrow dirt trails, since the Carpenter trails weren’t built with bikes in mind. He suggested the parks department add signs to some trails to show where bikes and pedestrians should go and in which directions traffic should move. Some of the main accesses to the trails also remain unmarked, he said.
Palmquist said some of the issues with the trails will be “an easy fix.” Advisory board chairman Paul Adams brought up the new access to Geer Natural Area that was opened on May 6 from Mildred Road, noting that it will have a sign. He said he hopes to eventually build a path around the entire Geer Natural Area specifically for hikers who don’t want to deal with two-wheeled traffic. But he said he didn’t think it was necessary to prohibit hikers on bike trails, or vice versa.
“I think, if you want to hike on a bike trail, go ahead,” he said. “I’ve always suggested ... that if you’re going to walk or run on those trails, know the direction of the bike trail and go against traffic.”
Although Palmquist said he agreed with Schneider that the parks need more “Stay on Trail” signs, he said the parks department could also prevent damage to native plants by periodically planting their seeds farther away from the trails. He said he’s working with the Montezuma Inspire Coalition, a GOCO funding project, to apply for a $1.5 million state grant later this summer. Some of that money could be used for signage and better trail maintenance, he said.
“If we do get funded with that, I do see the (Southwest) Youth Conservation Corps, their expertise, coming to assist with this,” he said.
Palmquist said he believes the trails could be improved even without state money, though, since many of the existing trails and signs were created by volunteers from the community, and he believes people will step up again in the future. Schneider also praised the council for their work on the natural areas.
“Durango? Nothing,” he said. “We’re way ahead of them in terms of parks.”