Bike day, or hike day? A plan being considered by Jeffco Open Space to address safety concerns that regularly arise on the popular trails of Apex Park just outside Golden could limit mountain bikers …
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Bike day, or hike day?
A plan being considered by Jeffco Open Space to address safety concerns that regularly arise on the popular trails of Apex Park just outside Golden could limit mountain bikers and hikers, runners and equestrian riders to using those trails only on specific days of the week.
The proposed management plan, which is onthe Jeffco Open Space website, would limit use of the park's Apex Trail, Enchanted Forest Trail, Hardscrabble Trail, Sluicebox Trail and the lower portion of the Pick-N-Sledge Trail to bike riders on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Hikers, runners and equestrian riders would be able to use those trails on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.
Open Space has proposed the new plan to cut down on trail conflicts caused by the speed differences between those user groups which can create safety risks. Worsening the situation is the trail's many narrow sections and blind corners as well as the increasing popularity of those trails.
The Apex and Enchanted Forest Trails are currently subject to directional use rules to attempt to avoid potential conflicts by requiring that bicyclists only ride uphill on the trails on odd numbered days of the month. However, a survey of park visitors conducted in 2019 found that 75 percent of respondents believed a new management strategy was needed at the park, which was up from 50 percent in 2017.
Matt Robbins, a Community Connections Manager at Jeffco Open Space, said the need for a new management strategy on those particular trails was supported by years of both observation by rangers and study.
“This whole discussion is anchored around visitor safety,” Robbins said. “Conflict doesn't have to necessarily be one where someone is injured, it could also just be where people feel unsafe.”
The identified trails, which are among the longest in the park feature the highest number of narrow sections, blind corners and other challenging features that contribute to them having the highest rate of conflicts between users.
“It wasn't of any surprise,” Robbins said. “Some of it is the makeup of the topography, particularly in enchanted forest there are some narrow portions of that trail with some blind corners that lead to some challenges.”
Jeffco Open Space staff members presented the proposal—and received plenty of negative reaction to it—at a public meeting held at Golden's Origins Hotel Red Rocks on Feb. 26.
Among those who have pushed back against elements of the proposal is the Golden Giddyup, an organization that sponsors a mountain biking race and other events to raise money for stewardship work on Jefferson County Open Space trails.
Prior to the meeting, the Giddyup released an alternative plan for management of the trails that calls for the Enchanted Forest and Middle/Lower Apex trails, which total 2.6 miles, to be open only to downhill mountain bike traffic on even numbered calendar days. On odd numbered days, those trails would be open to hikers, trail runners, equestrian riders and uphill bikers.
Meanwhile, the Grubstake and Bonanza Trails, which total 1.8 miles, would be open only to hikers, runners and equestrian riders with no bike access on even calendar days while being open to all uses, including downhill mountain biking, on odd numbered days
The Golden Giddyup argues that plan is more equitable for all user groups while eliminating all potential for dangerous conflicts by giving bikers their own day to ride downhill on the Enchanted Forest and Apex Trails.
“So what we've researched and been told from different user groups is that uphill bike traffic poses no safety concerns it doesn't pose a threat to these groups because the speed differential is not there,” said Jeff Watrobka, the Executive Director of the Golden Giddyup.
Stuart Cohen, a trail runner who attended the meeting and occasionally runs on the impacted trails, said he is supportive of the day of any management plan being oriented around even and odd calendar days rather than set days of the week.
“I think the even and days of the week are more helpful for people that have very constrained schedules regardless of user group,” he said. “That's what I think matters more than who gets the most days and that sort of thing.”
Robbins said Jeffco Open Space is taking all feedback from the meeting and a period that is allowing residents to provide feedback on the plan via email into consideration, including the plan submitted by Giddyup Golden.
However, Robbins also said that regardless of what final plan is settled on, it is likely that some users will be unhappy
“This is going to require some level of compromise from all parties and that includes the county and the various visitor groups,” he said.
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