The comment period has been extended from June 20 to July 15 because of public requests, said forest environmental planner Debbie Kill.
So far, there are more than 250 comments regarding management of the sprawling piece forest that encompasses the many drainages and foothills of the West Fork and Dolores Rivers.
The area includes the Rico Mountains, Lizard Head Pass and popular trails such as Bear Creek, Calico, Taylor and Stoner mesas, Burnett Creek, Ryman Creek, and others used by hikers, motorcyclists, bikers, hunters, and equestrians.
How to balance needs of single-track motorized uses with those of quiet users has been the main thrust of five options proposed by the forest.
During a recent trail map presentation in Dolores, the public discussed issues with forest officials, and a few shared their views.
Curtis Cowen, of Timberline Trailriders, expressed frustration at proposals to close Calico, Bear Creek, Ryman Creek, Burnett Creek, the Winter Trail, and others, to motorcycle use.
“I grew up here, and they are proposing to take away the larger loops we have ridden and enjoyed for decades,” he said.
Motorcycle impacts are fleeting, Cowen says, because riders quickly disappear into backcountry away from hikers nearer to the trailhead.
“We get beat up on a lot, but our group does a lot of trail maintenance, riding in with chainsaws to clear trail that benefits everyone,” Cowen said. “We stop and kill our engines to let hikers and horses pass, we take off our helmets to not spook the horses.”
Quiet users want less motorcycle access on trails to preserve their forest experience and reduce impacts on wildlife and hunting.
One area of contention is the Burnett Creek Trail, which is currently open to motorcycles but could be closed under some proposals.
The trail connects with the Burnett Road leading into the town of Rico from the west.
“We’d prefer that the Burnett Trail be closed to motorcycle use because of the traffic impact when they drop into our residential neighborhoods,” said Mike Curran, of Rico.
One alternative proposes to create a trail that would direct motorcycles from the end of the Burnett trail to the old Rio Grande Southern railroad bed. From there, riders could cross the Montelores bridge and ride Colorado 145 to Rico.
“The problem with that is the alternative route away from the Burnett road would be voluntary,” Curran said. “If the Burnett Trail stays open for motorcycles, nothing would stop them from continuing to use the road into town.”
Rico residents point out that under the San Juan Forest’s land management plan, a Rico “special area” of forest land surrounding town emphasizes limiting motorcycle uses.
Under the plan, Rico’s “desired conditions” are that “trails accessing SJNF-adminstered lands from within town boundaries emphasize non-motorized recreation modes in order to emphasize the community’s quiet-use character.”
To access the comment page for the proposals go to http://bit.ly/1qbQScu, or call the forest service office at (970) 882-7296.