Public gets view of future for Boulder County's Walker Ranch (Daily Camera)
Some residents say there aren't enough plans for new trails
Boulder County Parks and Open Space staff members offered a glimpse Tuesday night into the possible future of the Walker Ranch open space area.
About 50 people crowded into a small meeting room at the county's transportation office for the first of several public forums on potential upgrades and changes at the 3,818-acre Walker Ranch, including proposed changes to trails and facilities on the property.
The meeting included input from a June 2011 public open house and internal ideas produced by county staff members.
The plan outlined by county resource planner Jesse Rounds focused on making adjustments designed to benefit a variety of users, such as mountain bikers, trail runners, hikers and equestrians.
Proposed changes included a significant realignment of the Walker Ranch loop trail that would move the trail away from roads in some areas and away from slopes degraded by erosion in others.
Other aspects of the proposal included upgrades to the Ethel Harrold and Meyer's Gulch trailhead, with the latter planned for installation of a "nature play" area including picnic tables, rocks and other natural features children could climb on.
Many people in the audience Tuesday said they were displeased with the lack of proposed new trails leading off the property.
Rounds included maps with arrows showing where regional trails might be installed to lead to areas such as Nederland, Eldorado Canyon State Park and Chapman Drive.
Considering the many institutional and private property owners that would have to come together to make them possible, he noted those connections are still far from reality, though discussions are under way with groups including the managers of Eldorado Canyon State Park.
"Putting in any (new trail) to the west would be pretty premature," Rounds said. "But we finally got everyone at the table together."
Boulder Mountainbike Alliance President Jason Vogel spoke about the lack of new trails the county was outlining. He said he was happy county officials are sharing their vision for the area early on, so the public can have input, but he felt more information was needed for meaningful debate.
"I think the plan needs to get a lot more specific," Vogel said. "There are always going to be some tradeoffs between recreation and environmental preservation when it comes to trails. The questions is, is the environmental impact worth it? That's a discussion we need to have, but that's not the discussion we had tonight."
Other changes outlined were a year-round closure of the historic Walker Ranch homestead buildings except for special events and school trips. A seasonal closure -- from July to December -- is planned for the Castle Rock area on the west side of the central ranch for raptor nesting, Rounds said.
The Tom Davis Gulch area would be closed year-round, except for areas where new trails may pass through it, and the south portion of the site, known as BLM south -- long closed to the public because of fire -- will remain that way to provide native habitat, Rounds said.
Rounds said the next step is to refine the management proposal before taking it before the county's Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee early next year, when it will again be opened up for public input. Another public hearing would follow before the county commissioners.
By Joe Rubino Camera Staff Writer