Saturday, September 23, 2006

Marshall Mesa–Southern Grasslands TSA Comments

Marshall Mesa–Southern Grasslands Trail Study Area (TSA)

Trail Alternatives Comments

Boulder Outdoor Coalition Member

Note: This post was prior to the creation of this blog as part of an earlier stage in the ongoing public debate over Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks policies. While somewhat dated, the post still raises important issues which are still relevant.

The overall quality of the staff's evaluations is extremely variable. The content for the items that the staff has seriously considered for implementation is often quite good (e.g. Alternatives 1, 2, 10, 33). Assessments of other alternatives show obvious biases against implementation. This is particularly noticeable in the trail alternatives presented for the interior of the Southern Grasslands (Alternatives 22, 23, and 35) where 2 to 4 "Pros" are answered with 10 to 21 "Cons".

"Cons" listed for trail Alternatives 22, 23, and 35 are redundantly repetitive. Many of the statements are emotional and without significant justification or content (e.g. "compromises conservation goal for HCA", greatly reduces untrailed habitat", "bisects HCA", "fragments habitat", "importance of keeping HCA free of trails"). This is a single, questionable argument repeated over and over again. Similarly, few mitigation items are offered for these alternatives despite clear evidence of trail alignments that avoid the resources of concern (see Map 9b).

There should be a trail alternative (or option to an existing alternative) for a trail connection from the south end of 66th Street to the northwest corner of the Coalton trail. Lumping this connection under trail Alternative 35 doesn't allow for a separate evaluation of its suitability.

Citing the loss of the entire Terra Foundation grant $450,000 as justification for allowing no trails or stream crossing within the Fenced Riparian Restoration Area is extremely questionable. At the least the potential to mitigate this "Con" via negotiation with the foundation should be included. A crossing paralleling one of the private property fence lines should have minimal effects. The de facto selling of control over Open Space property to a private organization is also of questionable legality and could certainly invite a law suit.

Bicyclists are singled out at several places in the document as creating undesignated trails (e.g., Alternative 4, Con 1). This is inappropriate and incorrect. Bicyclists may make use of undesignated trails but will not create them in a grassland environment (too many flat tires). Hikers and joggers are much more likely to create undesignated trails.

The trail alternatives dealing with biking trail enhancements (Alternatives 9, 29, and 30) miss the point that adding curves, contours, and narrowing the trail corridor all tend to reduce bicyclists speeds and alleviate visitor conflicts. The "Con" listed for Alternative 9 ...(more bicyclists riding faster)" incorrect. The suggested enhancements will reduce speeds (which is a visitor conflict "Pro").

"Planned obstacles" is a poor choice of words for trail enhancements that help control alignments and reduce speed. Open Space regularly installs such features to control widening or braiding of existing trails. There is nothing in Alternative 9 that is "contrary to the Open Space Charter".

The connection from the City Limits trailhead to the Community Ditch trail might best be done as two parallel alignments to separate hikers from bikers and reduce visitor conflicts in the area immediately adjacent to the trailhead.

Although the at-grade crossing of Highway 93 at the intersection of HW 128 and HW 93 and the suggested crossing via the Community Ditch underpass (Alternative 3) resolve the crossing safety issues for hikers and bicyclists, there is still a need for a safe highway crossing for equestrians. Use of the existing cattle underpass near the old Matterhorn site (Alternative 25) could resolve this issue. Although this trail connection has been previously approved, it may be sufficient to allow equestrians to make use of the underpass without going to the expense of creating a new trail. In this case only minor modifications to fencing and gates to the west of the underpass would be required. Consider adding this possibility as an option to the exisitng Altrnative 25.

No comments: