SAN MIGUEL COUNTY – The Norwood Ranger District has a few interesting projects on tap that local public lands users should find to their liking.
In what may be the most exciting of the developments, access to Wilson Peak through private lands in Silver Pick Basin may finally be resolved by late summer, Norwood District Ranger Judy Schutza confirmed.
“We’re making progress on Wilson Peak,” she said. “We’re looking to have it open by mid-to-late August.”
Schutza’s confirmation piggybacked on a letter addressed to Board of County Commissioners Chair Joan May from Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest Supervisor Charlie Richmond dated March 22. In that letter Richmond updated May on the agency’s efforts to acquire public access to the Rock of Ages Pass near the iconic, triangle-shaped peak.
“As you know, we have been negotiating for several years with Mr. Rusty Nichols to exchange rights-of-way,” he wrote. “We expect to exchange deeds within a month. At that time, the Forest Service will grant Mr. Nichols a right-of-way to use and maintain the Silver Pick Road and in exchange Mr. Nichols will grant the Forest Service a right-of-way to use and maintain a trail through his Bedrock Placer.”
The Bedrock Placer easement will give the public access on the Rock of Ages trail.
“Trail opening is contingent upon our ability to find additional funds for key improvements, such as fencing and gates, to control motorized vehicles and a kiosk to provide information to the many Wilson Peak hikers,” Richmond wrote.
“There have been a lot of moving parts in this whole thing, a lot more than just building a trail,” Schutza said. “We hope folks can be patient just little bit longer…we think it will be worth it.”
And while it is “premature to talk about a proposal,” Schutza said, the agency also has some ideas for improvements at Priest Lake including a new trail, fixing dispersed camping problems, and possibly rebuilding the dam breached several years ago because of safety concerns.
“We’ve been hoping to do that since we breached it seven years ago,” she said. “It was leaking so we decided to drain the lake on our terms instead of the dam’s terms to avoid downstream damage.
“We would absolutely love to have that dam back,” she continued, describing it as a “good sport fishery,” “a great place to camp,” and important for water rights.
An interdisciplinary team of experts like wildlife biologists, recreation specialists and hydrologists will be compiled in April and a field trip to the site planned as soon as conditions allow.
“We’ll look at the potential of putting back what we had a few years ago,” Schutza said. But, “ Right now we don’t even have a proposal, we’re just looking at the possibilities.”
Finally, a $5,000 grant awarded to the Forest Service by the Roundup Riders of the Rockies will allow for some improvements to the Hope Lake Trail this summer.
“It’s a very popular trail and it really needs some work on the trail and trailhead,” said Schutza, describing it as “in poor shape” because it is used extensively.
“There is a lot of erosion below the lake because of the trail and people creating new trails.”
Although the granting organization is “dedicated to the perpetuation of the Western Tradition associated with the relationship between the American Cowboy and his horse,” according to its website, Schutza said there is no intent to improve the trail for equestrian purposes with the grant money.
“The Forest Service will improve the trail to non-motorized standards,” Schutza said.