The Park Record editorial, March 5-8, 2011
March 4, 2011
The trails in Round Valley have exploded in popularity this winter, attracting everyone from meandering snowshoers to speedy Nordic ski racers. And, while it is gratifying to see a public trail system attracting so many outdoor enthusiasts, it may turn out to be too much of a good thing.
As the number of people (and their canines) has increased, so has the frequency of conflicts. Unfortunately, instead of an idyllic getaway, Round Valley is in danger of becoming a battleground in an escalating turf war between various tribes of trail users.
On busy weekends right now, skiers are crashing into dogs, dogs are chasing each other and wildlife, cyclists are careening into hikers, and surrounding homeowners are tired of dealing with the crowds, the cars and dogs and the mess they leave behind.
The good news is that the publicly purchased open space has become a gathering place for so many members of the community. The bad news is that a growing number of those users report having bad experiences.
The options are to assign specific uses to specific trails and make sure the rules are enforced, or to rely on users to respect each others’ preferences.
Frankly, we are not optimistic that different types of trail users will voluntarily yield to others. And, even if they were willing, the trail maintenance requirements for different sports are often incompatible. For instance, it just doesn’t make sense to use an expensive piece of equipment to groom a trail for skiing and then to allow dogs and hikers to trample it.
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The current lack of a policy regarding loose dogs is also problematic. In the absence of a clearly designated leash-free area, an unhappy (or injured) individual could claim the city and county have been negligent in enforcing their own leash laws.
These are issues that issues crop up on trail systems throughout Summit County and, therefore, they are worth facing head on.
The city has already distributed a survey to trail users. It is now up to the Mountain Trails Foundation, which administers the Round Valley trail system, to turn that feedback into a workable policy.
Based on current usage, we believe some trails should be set aside where people could allow their dogs to be off-leash and other trails should be reserved for skiers. Another loop should be maintained for hikers who want to avoid both dogs and skiers.
Those designations should be strictly enforced at the trailheads where most of the conflicts occur while some of the less-frequently accessed areas could be left to multiple use.
As a starting point, the foundation should allow its paying membership, and surrounding homeowners, a primary voice in deciding how the trails should be divvied up.
With a little more management, based on public input, peace can be restored to Round Valley.