Trails group seeks to expand Cedar Mountain trails
CRAIG — Crowded around a table at Carelli’s Pizza, about 25 people gathered recently to discuss a proposed trail system on Cedar Mountain in Moffat County. Currently led by Clark Cleverly, an avid mountain biker, the newly formed MOCO Trails group seeks to build, maintain and improve trails for bikers, hikers and equestrians.
“The Steamboat community is pushing this really hard, too, because we don’t get snow until about a month and a half later than they do, and our snow is gone a month and a half earlier,” Cleverly said. He added that mountain bikers in Steamboat and the Vail Valley travel to Grand Junction, Fruita and Moab, Utah, to ride. An improved trail system could bring more of those riders to Craig.
The organization is working to get nonprofit status, which would make partnering with government agencies easier. MOCO Trails is also working to organize a group with formal officers and monthly meetings. In the future, the group plans to seek funding to make its projects into realities.
A major driver of the project, Cleverly said, is to provide more opportunity for Moffat County’s children and youth to get outdoors.
“We want to support the youth of the community and give them another area to go and have fun, be outside, get off cellphones or alcohol, drugs — whatever it might be.”
To keep up with the group, including MOCO Trail’s March meeting, check out MOCO Trails on Facebook.
The group’s first project is an expansion of the Brett Stearns Trail on Cedar Mountain. The Bureau of Land Management and volunteers have mapped about 10 miles of new trail on the mountain, including trails for a range of non-motorized uses.
“We want to start with Cedar Mountain, because it’s close to town,” Cleverly said. It’s close enough that people can hike or bike the trail before or after work. Cleverly said close-to-town trails like these are important to communities that support sustainable recreation.
The proposed trails on Cedar Mountain are currently in review for environmental impact under the National Environmental Policy Act. As long as the results of that review show no significant impact, work can begin. The area is designated as a special recreation management area, so it is designated for these types of uses, according to BLM Outdoor Recreation Manager Dario Archuleta.
Cleverly and Archuleta hope to break ground in the spring, hopefully by April.
“I couldn’t be more tickled that were having a group of local, Craig people that are willing to step up to the plate and help us out with these endorsements,” Archuleta said. “We have to rely on the public, and this is your land.”
The first trail to be built will be one that creates an easier climb from the parking lot that would connect to the existing Stearns Trail. A local student has already expressed interest in building this section as part of his Eagle Scout Project.
The next trails to be build will be determined with public input but would likely be a scenic trail that follows the mountain’s southern ridge or a “flow trail” that would be the only groomed, bike-only trail in the proposed system.
“Flow trails are kind of the new rave,” Cleverly said. “It’s like a roller coaster on a mountain bike, basically, so it’s really fun.”
The city wants to expand trails at Loudy-Simpson Park to connect the county park to downtown Craig and, eventually, Cedar Mountain.
City Parks and recreation Director Dave Pike said the city will begin paving the trail adjacent to B Street. The city has also funded a trail that would run adjacent to U.S. Highway 40, from the Loaf n Jug through the Ridgeview subdivision.
“Our next economic engine is going to be recreation,” City Manager Mike Foreman told the group. “We are a highly energy-laden economy right now. … Having a group like you to work with the city, the county and all our citizens — that’s going to be great for us.”
The city has sought input from MOCO Trails in developing a new master plan for Craig Parks and Recreation.
If the community embraces the Cedar Mountain trails, MOCO Trails and BLM staff hope to expand into Moffat County with bike and off-highway vehicle trails in the area of Duffy Mountain and the Little Yampa Canyon. With the beauty and unique features of the area, Cleverly said a trail here could attract bikers from out-of-state.
Members of MOCO Trails are also working to advance a proposed trail on the ridge on the southern side of Loudy-Simpson The county is also in discussions with the BLM about additional off-highway vehicle trails, county Natural Resource Director Jeff Comstock said.
The Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters will move to Grand Junction.