Boulder County to discuss Walker Ranch open space trails, access (Daily Camera)

Planners to unveil proposals for trails on west Boulder County property

Boulder Mountainbike Alliance President Jason Vogel envisions a community where bike paths and trails can someday take cyclists, commuters and casual riders directly from home to work to recreation areas without needing to drive to a trailhead.

The 3,818-acre Walker Ranch seems like a good place to start thinking about this big picture for west Boulder County, said Vogel, speaking on behalf of BMA, so future generations can enjoy a car-free regional trail system that leads into the foothills.

Boulder County Parks and Open Space will host a public meeting Tuesday evening to discuss the best way to revise county-owned Walker Ranch trails and land management. The county staff's proposals are based on public recommendations from a June 2011 meeting and continued discussions. The final proposal to the Parks and Open Space advisory committee and the Board of County Commissioners will take place early in 2013, according to county officials.

"One of the things that is missing in Boulder is a way to ride from your home into the mountains and back to your home, never getting into a car, without burning any fossil fuels," Vogel said. "A carbon-free recreation experience."

Resource planner Jesse Rounds, who has been working on the land management plan since June 2011, said the plans would be unveiled at the Tuesday meeting and did not want to give many specifics ahead of the meeting. But he did say the county is looking into regional trails, though he and his staff want to ensure those trails don't impact resources.

The proposals also will emphasize a balance between all user groups -- hikers, cyclists, runners, anglers, sightseers and nature lovers, he said.

Rounds and his staff expect the newest land management plan to bring Walker Ranch trails up to modern standards, which they hope will last for at least the next decade and a half.

The entire trail network at Walker Ranch needs to be updated, Vogel said.

The county has the staff and tools to create trail systems that minimize erosion, protect resources and promote recreation, Vogel said, as shown by their work on Picture Rock, Wild Turkey and Benjamin Trails.

"How are we going to manage this space over the next 15 years?" Rounds said. "The (current) management plan was approved in 1985, it's been much more than 15 years. In that time a lot of things have happened."

"It's a chance to look at the entire space and say, 'What do we really want to protect?' and 'What do we want to get people to so they can see what we're protecting?'" Rounds said.

BMA has advocated for trails connecting Walker Ranch to Eldorado Springs, Nederland, Chapman Drive and Winiger Ridge -- stepping stones toward creating a complete regional system. During the heated West Trail Study Area discussions in 2011 -- which covered trail use near Walker Ranch, but not on the property -- BMA also advocated for connector trails to and from Walker Ranch.

The biggest challenge, Vogel said, is getting all of the affected agencies -- including the U.S. Forest Service, Boulder County Parks and Open Space, the Boulder County Transportation Department, the City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks, Eldorado Canyon State Park and City of Longmont Water Department -- to discuss logistics.

Vogel praised the connections between trails in the plains, but said it's time for the foothills and county's western side to have the same connectedness.

By Sarah Kuta kuta@coloradodaily.com

 

If You Go

What: Boulder County Parks and Open Space meeting to discuss Walker Ranch

When: 6 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Boulder County Transportation office, 2525 13th St., Boulder

More info: http://bouldercounty.org/os/openspace/pages/walkerplan.aspx