BMA Official Comments on the Walker Ranch Management Plan Revisit 2011

To: Jesse Rounds, Planner, BCPOS
From: Boulder Mountainbike Alliance
Subject: Walker Ranch Management Plan Input

First and foremost, the Boulder Mountainbike Alliance (BMA) thanks Boulder County Parks and Open Space (BCPOS) staff for the continued positive developments occurring on trails throughout Boulder County. Staff, through their actions, have demonstrated that sustainable trails can be fun and provide a quality user experience while also managing significant user pressure. We see this success being an overall positive result for the resource, as trails that hold up don't become a negative contributor to the recreational and natural resources on a given property.

We are excited to participate in the revisit of the Walker Ranch Management Plan. BMA has spent thousands of volunteer hours working on the trails at Walker through the 1990s when this park was the premier cycling destination in Boulder County. Revisiting the plan provides an excellent opportunity to take a fresh look at Walker Ranch and ask ourselves how this trail system works with the rest of the County.

The high points:

  • Walker Ranch's greatest potential lies in its proximity to other public lands, and the opportunities it presents for trail corridors both east and west of the property.
  • It's time to get off the roads. Too much of Walker Ranch utilizes old road beds that were not created for recreational use. BCPOS trail crews have the capacity to do so much better.
  • It's time to bring the entire trail system up to current standards.

The Walker Ranch Management Plan update is an opportunity to leverage BCPOS' assets with those of other Boulder County land management agencies to create trail corridors that interconnect city, county, state and federal lands. The user pressure on our open spaces will only increase with projected population growth along the Front Range. This common problem merits a common solution among Boulder County's land management agencies. We need to create recreational opportunities that disperse use while minimizing travel by car. A regional recreational trail system provides multiple benefits, including dispersing use, reducing visitor impact on any single parcel, providing diverse recreational opportunities, and reducing the greenhouse gas intensity of recreation in Boulder County.

In support of this end, BMA proposes:

1) Staff support a trail corridor east to the plains. BMA does not endorse any specific corridor to accomplish that goal. Issues of topography, private property, and untrammeled wild places are the variables that must be considered in this effort, and we would be presumptuous to favor one corridor or another without more detailed study.

2) Staff support of a trail corridor west to USFS lands. The US Forest Service, through our communications with the Boulder Ranger District, is amenable to the concept of a trail corridor west. There are several options that could be pursued: the Denver Water project at Gross Reservoir could yield a corridor through Winiger Ridge, or the political winds may be right to open the possibility of using the aqueduct from Barker Reservoir to Kossler Lake. Again, we do not know which corridor is best, but we urge BCPOS to have the will to pursue this goal and work with the USFS and other government agencies as necessary to make it a reality.

3) Staff support for minimizing on-road travel necessary to connect Chapman Drive to Walker Ranch. This could include opening the old farm road in Meyers Homestead that meets Flagstaff Road on the west side of the summit on one of the switchbacks or other routes that would minimize on-road travel.

All three of these connections east towards the City of Boulder and west towards the Town of Nederland would support the creation of a Nederland to Boulder trail corridor which has been identified in the Boulder County Comprehensive Plan "County Trails Map" for decades.

The Walker Ranch Management Plan update is also an opportunity to improve the recreation experience and user safety. You've heard it for years..... ROADS ARE NOT TRAILS. There are several opportunities for BCPOS staff to improve the existing trail system to improve the recreation experience and reduce user conflict.

4) Consider replacing the pipeline trail on the east side of the Walker Ranch Loop (from South Boulder Creek to the Ethel Harrold Trailhead) with a singletrack trail. This trail is an exposed grunt of a climb with low value from a visitor experience perspective. We understand that BCPOS trail crews have already studied some of the options getting off the road and onto singletrack in the same drainage as this road. It's time to get that research and apply the matured trail building practices of Boulder County's trail crew and make that happen.

5) Consider replacing the counterclockwise descent from the main trailhead to South Boulder Creek with a singletrack trail. The South Boulder Creek trail, while not exactly a road, is so steep and wide that it leads to large speed differentials between cyclists and other users and consequent user conflict potential. Let's take a fresh look at designing and building something that will manage speed differentials and make it fun for all.

Lastly, we want to see the existing singletrack in the Walker Ranch system brought up to current trail building standards:

6) Review the Columbine Gulch Trail and Meyers Homestead Trails to see if state-of-the-art trail design techniques can improve sustainability and minimize conflict on these trails.

BMA appreciates this opportunity to provide input during this revisit of the management plan. Know that we also stand ready to help turn good decisions into on-the-ground reality. You can expect BMA to be an active partner in the creation and ongoing maintenance of these assets. That's why we are here.