The idea, according to Ridgway Trails Group representative Rich Durnan, is to make up for the lack of “quality” backcountry single-track trails suitable for mountain biking, trail running, hiking, and horseback riding in Ouray County.
At the very least, the town will issue a letter of support to land managers asking that the group be assisted in its effort to preserve nearly three square miles, or over 2,000 acres, of public land just east of Ridgway State Park off of U.S. Hwy. 550. Money may also be in the offing, according to Mayor Pat Willits. “Make a request in September when staff is preparing its annual budget,” Willits suggested.
The trail group has identified two adjoining parcels of land with “stunning” views of the San Juan mountain range. The parcels are managed by Ridgway State Park and the Bureau of Land Management’s Uncompahgre Field Office.
“The land presently contains a system of existing jeep roads and game trails that, when integrated with a network of single track, will offer a superior backcountry recreational experience unmatched in the area,” Durnan said.
The effort to create a trail system has been spurred by increasing demands for motorized recreation on public lands, as well as by the sale or trade of detached units of public land by state and federal agencies in recent years.
“There’s a high probability that [land] will be developed or sold off when it’s an isolated parcel,” explained Durnan.
According to the trail group’s web page, the effort to develop a well-designed, sustainable trail system is also intended to mitigate impacts from motorized trail users. “Although mountain bikers may be heading this project, it is not just for bikers,” reads the group’s website. “It is intended that this trail system be available to a variety of non-motorized users such as trail runners, hikers, walkers, and horseback riders.”
A user-friendly trail system that will change from open-travel designation to limited-use and that will restrict trail users to approved travel routes is considered by the group to be timely.
In 2004, Durnan and Brad McCardle, searching for quality riding experiences, approached the two agencies with a proposal to develop a multi-use trail system on the adjoining parcels of land these agencies manage. Having identified the land,” which lies on the outskirts of the town of Ridgway, as having ideal terrain, trail connectivity and access, the process of obtaining permission for this project began,” reads the website.
“The big selling point is connectivity. There’s a lot more power in that with the agencies,” said Durnan.
The trail system will provide local and visiting users with a network of trails that provide a progression of difficulty based on the skill level required for each trail.
“This is most exciting. The BLM is offering us a different type of trail. We don’t have terrain that’s suitable for families or inexperienced riders,” said Durnan.
The effort, which is gaining favor with the agencies, will connect up trails extending from the town of Ridgway northward. The proposed Ridgway Trail System will be accessed via three main trailheads, one of which will be located just east of Ridgway State Park off of Hwy. 550, and will link to a majority of the green-level trails proposed for the trail system.
A second trailhead will be located at the south end of the proposed trail system off County Road 10. This trailhead will cater to users that elect to access the trails via the paved path from town.
“The parking lot for this trailhead will be small, allowing parking for approximately 10 vehicles and no horse trailers,” according to a handout presented to council on Feb 12.
The council requested a trail plan, and Durnan reminded the council that the trail group will be raising funds for an Environmental Assessment to be performed this year.
Learn more about the project at www.ridgwaytrails.com.