June 11, 2014 Updated: June 11, 2014 at 6:27 pm
A popular trail network in Bear Creek Basin west of Colorado Springs is expected to be reopened to most users by next week.
The lifting of a controversial U.S. Forest Service closure applies to all trails that were barred from public use after September flooding, including Cap'n Jacks Trail (667) and singletrack that winds through the Jones Park area.
However, dirt bikes will be confined to a single loop in Frosty's Park, bounded by trails 701, 720, 720a and 668 - meaning motorized users still will be banned from their beloved Cap'n Jacks.
A date for the reopening hasn't been finalized, but Forest Service officials are "working towards" having the trails reopened by next week, spokeswoman Barb Timock said in an email.
The news was made public Tuesday at a meeting hosted by Colorado Springs Utilities. The response from most attendees was swift, said Bill Koerner of the Trails and Open Space Coalition, who summarized the mood in the room with a single, barked "Hallelujah!"
"Nobody said that, but they all had that sort of shocked look on their faces," he said.
Koerner added: "The motorized guys weren't very happy though."
At the meeting, Forest Service officials said dirt bikes will not be permitted on trails within the Bear Creek watershed because of a civil settlement struck last year between the Forest Service and the Center for Biological Diversity, which alleged that motorized use could threaten a rare species of trout in the creek.
Usage rules will change once the agency settles on its plan for the watershed, which is expected to include a mix of new trails, trail closures and trail reroutes to protect the fish habitat.
The Forest Service has said it will approve its plan by late summer.
The reopening involves a variety of trail repairs to make the area safe for all users, said Mark Shea, watershed planning supervisor for CSU. Hikers reported seeing work crews in the area Tuesday.
Among those in attendance at the meeting was a representative of Rep. Doug Lamborn, who has pushed for renewed access to the Bear Creek area.
"The congressman is happy that the public lands will be available to the public for use," Lamborn spokesman Jarred Rego said.