Update: February 9, 2018
*Public Comments are due Friday, February 16.
Before you get overwhelmed with too much info, know that effective comments don’t have to be pages in length, with annotated references. They can be simple explanations of how you use Signal Peak currently, or how you would with the proposed trails. Heck, they can be written on a napkin in crayon and mailed in. They can dive into loads of specifics, or touch upon one part of the plan. And if you have questions, or need help crafting a comment, please email [email protected]
Gunnison Trails has never had an opportunity like this before, and we need your help. With up to 28 miles of trails in consideration for Signal Peak, the BLM needs to hear loud and clear from the recreation community. The preferred alternative to our draft plan, labeled Alternative B, has a few major differences from our original plan that we would like to highlight below. With all of the seasonal restrictions, wildlife concerns and other details, commenting on the draft alternatives can be quite confusing. We’re here to help. Read on to learn more about how Gunnison Trails original plan differs from the BLM’s preferred alternative, and how best to comment.
Gunnison Trails Draft Comments can be seen HERE.
Maps and the BLM draft summary can be found HERE.
There are 3 major areas of concern Gunnison Trails has with the BLM preferred Alternative B:
- Trail Connectivity to Lost Canyon Rd.
Gunnison Trails’ original plan proposed 2 trails connecting the Signal Peak trail system with Lost Canyon Rd. Lost Canyon trail and Sheep Gulch trail were both removed for consideration in Alternative B, for both trailhead concerns on Lost Canyon Rd., as well as for wildlife habitat concerns. Gunnison Trails strongly encourages the inclusion of these trails. These trails would provide access to the Signal Peak system for Cranor Hill and outlying communities, as well as provide longer trail loop opportunities for Gunnison Valley residents.
While Gunnison Trails respects the concerns for wildlife habitat, as well as the potential increase of use on Lost Canyon Rd., we feel sustainable single-track access to Lost Canyon Rd. is entirely appropriate and would benefit the trail system. Especially when one considers the current development on Lost Canyon Rd., the presence of a popular shooting range (which one can hear when on Signal Mesa, the very top of the trail system), and current and historic two-track jeep roads covering the northside of Signal Peak. While the majority of trail use would be focused on the trails closer to the City of Gunnison, trails on the northside of Signal Mesa would create longer trail loop opportunities that afford a unique trail experience on narrower, more backcountry-style trail. Much like Aberdeen at Hartman Rocks, the Lost Canyon and Sheep Gulch trails would provide riders and runners a more solitary experience, and would provide an easy access point for individuals that live along Lost Canyon Road and in the Cranor Hill subdivision.
- Bike Closure from 1/1 – 4/30
You are not alone if you have some confusion over the proposed seasonal closures for the area. Between Sage-grouse, wintering wildlife and the closures for each depending on use, there is loads to be confused over. To simplify, there are two wildlife concerns in Signal Peak; Gunnison Sage-grouse and wintering wildlife. There is a full area closure (no humans allowed) in an area close to Gunnison from March 15 – May 15…it’s the shaded area in this MAP.) While this area has seen most of the historic use, Gunnison Trails respects the importance of protecting the threatened Sage-grouse, and will continue to educate users and assist the BLM in management.
There is also a closure period specific to bikes from 1/1 – 4/30 throughout the entirety of the system for wintering wildlife protection. The thinking is that someone on a bike can travel further than someone on foot or horse. Therefore, that individual has the ability to access farther reaches of a trail system and potentially disturb wildlife that are still recovering from a long winter. Gunnison Trails feels strongly that closure to bikes should be based on conditions on the ground, rather than a hard and fast date. This gives land managers, namely the BLM and CPW, the ability to survey the area, and open trails up to bikes when it is appropriate. When the trails are muddy, or wildlife is present, the trails remain closed to bikes. When conditions improve, and wildlife have moved to higher elevations, the trails can be opened. An adaptive management approach to wildlife concerns has proven effective in other trail systems, and would make for better compliance among trail users.
Comparing this winter and last winter is a great exercise in real-life management scenarios. Last winter was a historic snow year, and it certainly took a toll on our big game. In winters such as last year, the trails would remain closed until 4/30 to bikes. In fact, the BLM can extend the closure period should animals still be present due to high snow loads in higher elevations. As evidenced by the strong compliance of trail users to the closures south of the Power Line road at Hartman Rocks, responsible trail users see the benefit in such a closure, and would abide by such restrictions to avoid negatively impacting our big game. However, this winter is the exact opposite to last year, with record low snowfall in the Valley. In winters such as this, and there’s reason to believe our winters will only become more unpredictable, the area may be free from deer and elk much earlier in the season. Having a specific closure period for bikes that lasts until 4/30 doesn’t take into account winters such as this one, and having a more adaptive approach would give residents of Gunnison a recreational outlet close to town. Trails in Signal Peak are meant to concentrate recreational trail use; to provide an area where hikers, runners AND bikers can get some quick exercise when other areas are still covered in snow, or have wintering wildlife. Keeping the system closed to bikes when the trails are open and the wildlife gone only encourages use in other areas, rather than focusing the trail use in a managed system.
- North Woods Trail
The North Woods trail, a historic cattle or game trail with a remarkably sustainable alignment, has come under fire recently, due to its location on the northside of Signal Peak. While the majority of the proposed system is comprised of rolling sage hills, this trail offers users a diverse experience in a small patch of north facing pine. This trail also provides important connectivity to the eastern portion of the Signal Peak system. If this trail is one that you know, let the BLM know that you want this trail to remain in the trail system.
Thanks very much for taking the time to submit a comment. If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Update: January 18, 2018.
*Public Meeting: January 30, 2018 WSCU University Center Ballroom, 7:00pm-9:00pm
The BLM has just released the draft alternatives to our Signal Peak Trail proposal that we submitted to the BLM Gunnison Field Office in January 2017. Our plan is under a formal Environmental Assessment, which means there are several public comment periods where the plan is refined and alternatives are drafted. To better understand the process, where we are now, and how you can submit an effective comment, read on.
All information, including the initial proposal and public scoping, the summary of draft alternatives and all associated project maps can be found on the BLM ePlanning website.
The summary of the draft alternatives can be found HERE. The draft alternatives are the result of the initial public scoping (comment) period. The BLM gathered all of the information submitted during the comment period, as well as information from the cooperating agencies (CPW, WSCU, Gunnison County, the City of Gunnison) to draft a series or alternatives. In this case, there are 3 alternatives:
- Alternative A – Gunnison Trails’ Proposal (Modified initially by the BLM)
- Alternative B – BLM Preferred Alternative
- No Action Alternative
The biggest takeaways from Alternative B are:
- 21.6 miles of trail (GT proposal calls for 28 miles of trail)
- Removal of conceptual trails on the northside of Signal Mesa (Lost Canyon, Sheep Gulch and parts of North Woods), as well as a 1.4 mile trail connecting
- Three Canyons trail with BLM Rd. 3211b
- Addition of Lost Sheep trail connecting BLM 3218 to BLM 3108a (in northeast corner of map) and Tomichi Point trail connecting BLM 3211c to BLM
- 3211c1 (this is actually the road number!)
- Increased seasonal restrictions (see table below).
Public comments on the draft alternatives are due by February 16, 2018.
Comments may be submitted via mail to:
Gunnison Field Office
Attn: Jim Lovelace
210 West Spencer Avenue, Suite A
Gunnison, CO 81230
or via email to:
[email protected] with “Signal Peak Trails Plan” referenced in the subject line.
*For more info, advice on submitting an effective comment or if you have questions on any part of this process, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Email [email protected] Thanks!
Update December 2016
The Signal Peak Trails Master Plan
(Links to Gunnison Trails’ Signal Peak Trails Master Plan and map set at bottom of this page)
Gunnison, Colorado is fortunate to be surrounded by public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM.) Rivers and creeks along with highways and county roads running north/south and east/west neatly divide these public lands areas into quarters from Gunnison. The Signal Peak area comprises the northeast quarter and contains the most readily and historically accessible public lands from the Gunnison city limits. Situated adjacent to the city limits and the campus of Western State Colorado University (WSCU), this area has been a popular recreational amenity and access to public lands for as long as Gunnison has existed. Consistent trail use deeper into the area began in the mid 1980’s and was spawned by mountain biking. Trail use deeper into the area since has been dominated by mountain biking but hiking and trail running are popular, to, especially closer to Gunnison and the outlying neighborhoods.
Despite being the most accessible public lands for Gunnison valley citizens and visitors, the area lacks a comprehensive plan to provide for and manage recreational trail use, provide specific user experiences, and help minimize impacts to natural resources. Little trail planning has taken place and the area offers no managed trail experience beyond the WSCU property, other than two system routes, the Ridgeline trail and the Contour trail. Since the late 1980’s, livestock and game trails have become social routes and seen increased use every year.
Even though there has been no organization to these disconnected routes, for three decades mountain bikers, runners and hikers have cobbled together a variety of loops and out and back experiences, utilizing various combinations of the two system routes, the social trails and area system roads. Hikers are most common close to town and outlying neighborhoods, while runners have increased range and get further out. Mountain bike use is common throughout and there was a time when this area was more popular with local mountain bikers than the Hartman Rocks area. Additionally, equestrian and OHV motorcycle use has taken place on the trails in the area.
Every year, the Signal Peak area sees more human powered recreational trail use. Since much of the system is on social routes, wayfinding signage and maps of popular trails do not exist. Users currently employ trial and error, word of mouth descriptions and exploration tactics to experience the area often with much confusion. This plan is focused on creating an accessible, high-quality recreational trail system designed for the most common, low impact trail users in the Gunnison area: mountain bikers, hikers and runners.
Aligning with current national trends, this plan proposes an experience-based trail system for the Signal Peak area that follows the BLM’s Guide for a Quality Trail Experience (GQTE) and that is optimized for mountain biking. The GQTE uses trail experience as a primary factor in the design and management recommendations for trail systems (more on the BLM’s GQTE later in this plan.)
While Gunnison Trails has focused this plan on the low-impact, human powered activities of mountain biking, hiking and running, the determination of types of activities allowed on trails in the Signal Peak trail system will be made by the BLM. Typical activities allowed on BLM singletrack trails include:
- Mountain Biking
- Equestrian Use
- OHV Singletrack (Motos)
Gunnison Trails recommends that the system trails be non-motorized. Additionally, while mountain bike optimized trails are wholly appropriate for hiking and running, they are not always ideal for equestrian use. Decisions concerning equestrian use are beyond the scope of this plan and will be determined by the BLM.