Tuesday, March 13, 2007

OSMP Sites to Require Off-trail Permits

Boulder trying to protect sensitive open space parcels
By Ryan Morgan (Contact)
Monday, March 12, 2007
Boulder Daily Camera

View a map of the Open Space and Mountain Parks areas that now require a permit to go off trail.

Starting today, visitors to some of the most environmentally sensitive parcels of Boulder's Open Space and Mountain Parks will need to get a permit to leave the trail.

Permits will be easy to get, at least for the next 12 months, said Dave Kuntz, a department division manager. They'll be issued at no charge to people who apply — online at www.osmp.org — and describe when and where they want to go off-trail.

Kuntz said that will let the department keep track of where people are going within the sensitive Habitat Conservation Areas, as well as figure out where those visitors could cause damage. After a year, he said, the department could start limiting permits to prevent damage to popular off-trail areas.

To illustrate why the department wants to encourage people to stay on trails, Kuntz led a brief trip to the Southern Grasslands, just northeast of the intersection of Colo. 93 and Colo. 128 on the north side of Rocky Flats.

"This is historically what the high plains really looked like, if you don't look at Rocky Flats," Kuntz said. "Historically, this is what it was like — basically short- and mixed-grass prairie."
The grassland parcel is home to prairie dogs, rare burrowing owls, badgers and raptors, Kuntz said. And it's not home to people. With the exception of a new trail that will open later this year and some utility poles, the animals and the grass are left alone.

Kuntz points out the view, a vista that includes the plains, foothills and mountains. The department has designed the High Plains trail so people can get those kinds of views without leaving it, he said.

When and where do I need a permit? If you want to leave the trail on any of the city of Boulder's Habitat Conservation Areas or if you want to venture into a parcel that doesn't have any trails at all. These areas are marked with signs.

Where are the Habitat Conservation Areas? North Foothills, Western Mountain Parks, Eldorado Mountain, Jewel Mountain, Southern Grasslands, Tallgrass Prairie East, Sombrero Marsh, Cottonwood Grove and Lower Boulder Creek.

How much does it cost? The permit is free.

How do I apply? Visit www.osmp.org and click on "Permits." You'll be asked to describe where you're going and when you'll be there.

What's "off-trail?"Open space officials have tried to nail down a good definition of what it means to leave the trail. Here's what they've come up with:

"Unavoidable and incidental activities (e.g., answering nature's call, yielding to a horse, avoiding a hazard on a trail, resting or eating 'beside' the trail) are generally not considered 'off-trail,'" the guidelines state. "Going off-trail for lunch, to find a quiet spot or to reach an overlook is considered off-trail."

What's the penalty? Breaking the ordinance could mean a fine of up to $1,000, although violators would probably face a much smaller penalty.

To see the rest of the article go to the Daily Camera

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