Forest Service wants help from public on changing trails

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U.S. Forest Service officials will seek more public input before moving trails and trailheads in Routt National Forest after failing to get the response they expected when the issues were presented last year.

"We just want to make sure that the public understands the proposals and have a chance to comment," said Ed Patalik, Forest Service recreational planner.

The Forest Service is using the 1997 Routt Divide Blowdown as an opportunity to relocate a three-mile stretch of the 13-mile Luna Lake trail.

The trail is typically used by horseback riders because of the distance. If hikers want to go to Luna Lake they usually go from Buffalo Pass because it's a shorter walk, said Don Markley, a guide for Steamboat Lake Outfitters.

The original section of the trail, covered by trees, crosses over streams several times, which endangers riparian areas, Patalik said.

Instead of cutting the old trail through the downed trees, the Forest Service wants to clear Farmer's trail instead. That trail is a user-developed path that isn't maintained by the Forest Service. It also is under blown-down trees.

"The new location is drier and melts off earlier," Patalik said.

There's also fewer wildlife concerns on Farmer's trail because it's farther away from the water, Patalik said.

Markley has been on the original trail and Farmer's trail. He said the change is a good idea because Luna Lake trail was made before people thought about the environmental impact of trails.

"The blowdown has given them this opportunity," he said.

The change in the trail doesn't sacrifice in scenery, Markley added. "All the scenery up there is pretty," he said.

In addition to the Luna Lake trail change, forest officials want to close and rehabilitate Three Island Lake trailhead and North Lake trailhead and camping site. One trailhead would be developed with a camping area between the two existing sites, about a mile beyond Three Island Lake trailhead on Forest Road 443, Patalik said.

The last half mile of the road will be closed to vehicles and become part of the North Lake trail.

Markley confirmed the need for a larger parking area, which the new trailhead would provide.

"Neither place is really adequate," he said. "When you get a bunch of vehicles in there, there's not much room to turn around."

The new parking area would allow for 25 cars and room for trailers, Patalik said.

Also, closing North Lake trailhead and campsites on the south fork of the Elk River provides for better protection in the area, officials said.

A violent windstorm in October 1997 knocked over or uprooted uncounted trees in several thousand acres of the forest north of Steamboat. The area that was damaged has been dubbed the Blowdown.

Comments about the trail changes should be mailed by May 7 to Sherry Reed at the Hahn's Peak/Bears Ears District of the Routt National Forest at 925 Weiss Drive, Steamboat Springs, CO 80487. (Doug Crowl is a reporter with the Steamboat Pilot/Today.)

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