For mountain biking devotees of Lake Pueblo State Park, fear has turned to relief.
Beloved singletrack seemed in the crosshairs with Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s April draft plan that called for the closure of connections through areas known as Rock Canyon, Skull Canyon and Arkansas Point. That fired up riders who’ve come to regard the park as “the Fruita of the Front Range” for its dry terrain year-round.
Apparently, they’ve been heard.
The new plan puts those coveted connections back online and keeps a total 91% of trails on the South Shore, the popular base of the system sprawling 50-plus miles.
And the outlook is even better than the percentage suggests, said Adam Davidson, president of the Southern Colorado Trail Builders. He explained that most segments up for closure are meaningless trail braids and dead-end spurs.
“In terms of trail users,” he said, “the percentage of trails retained is actually a lot higher. If I had to guess, it’s probably 95% to 98%.”
The stretches called Waterfall, Log Drop and Creekside account for “the only closure of actual significance,” he said. Land managers deemed the route harmful to a riparian zone. Also, they said an archaeological site demands a reroute of Arkansas Point — the debated alignment in the previous plan has been revised.
Davidson said he understands the moves, considering the ultimate goal of the overdue assessment: “to heal the wound that is the trail system right now,” he said. “Priority No. 1 is to make the system sustainable.”
What prompted the review was an order by the Bureau of Reclamation, which owns the park and handed operational duties to CPW in 1975. The Southern Colorado Trail Builders grew its nonprofit organization through people who went on to blaze trails without proper oversight — a fault that has only recently been conceded.
“From lack of management on both sides, from CPW and Bureau of Reclamation over the years, we found ourselves with a pretty beloved trail system that was created socially and not formalized,” said Monique Mullis, Lake Pueblo’s manager.
The draft plan represented “a very resource-heavy approach,” she said — accounting for trails that posed possible risks to the environment and historically relevant sites. With the public outcry, “we were able to go back and kind of reassess and take a bigger picture look,” Mullis said.
“The good news is, people did care, and it’s because of that draft plan that we were able to do the more rounded approach. I think we did find the balance between resource protection, safety and also public demand.”
Now the plan goes to the Bureau of Reclamation for review. Mullis said she anticipated approval by next summer.