RBC I At the last of three public workshops held in Rangely and Meeker June 4 and 5, Fort Collins-based Great Outdoors Consultants (GOC) presented a master plan for a trail system looping around the county, with special recreation areas (SRAs) proposed around the primary loop.
After receiving additional comments, GOC will develop and present the county’s final master trails plan after the Fourth of July, with the first phase of implementation and solicitation of funding to begin thereafter.
The primary loop, secondary trails and additional off-highway vehicle (OHV) trails, which will cater to a variety of motorized and non-motorized recreational uses, bring the current plan to 1,018.7 miles of travelable country.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM) roads, county roads and United States Forest Service (USFS) trails each account for roughly a third of the total mileage.
“This initial concept provided by Great Outdoors Consultants accurately captures the input and public involvement received at the various public meetings,” said Rio Blanco County Economic Development Coordinator Katelin Cook. “The finalization of this planning document will be the first step toward expansion of recreational offerings in Rio Blanco County and by marketing more than 1,000 miles of trails, it should drive tourism dollars to our communities.
“This is a proposed plan, which helps guide future decisions and financial strategies to bring more dollars into our towns,” she added.
From Meeker, the main loop travels east through Forest Service land before heading south past Avery Lake and the Oakridge Scenic Wildlife Area (SWA). It then loops south near the USFS’s North Elk area before following Flag Creek and veering west to Deer Gulch.
The map outlines a potential SRA bordered by Dudley Bluff and Ryan Gulch before the primary trail dips sharply south, then travels north through the Cathedral Bluffs. A west turn toward Rangely takes the loop past the Rangely Rock Crawling Park and another stretch of approximately 40,000 acres south of Kenney Reservoir, both potential SRAs.
Next, the main trail edges along the northern borders of the county, briefly traveling into Moffat County southeast of Massadona before heading back south along the White River, the Piceance SWA and the Black Mountain Wilderness Study Area.
Three hundred and forty-eight miles of trail currently make up the primary loop, with an additional 514 miles of secondary trail rambling through an expanse of BLM land on the county’s west end and established OHV trails through the Forest Service country of Morapos, Pagota Peak and Ripple Creek Pass/Trapper’s Lake.
While the 423 miles of county and USFS trails considered trail-ready exist on the county’s east end – more than 250 of those miles form the existing Wagon Wheel Trail System — the first phase of plan implementation will focus on verifying approximately 265 miles of trails to the south and east of Rangely and in the Indian Valley area.
Following that, organizers will tackle the 221 miles of roads bisecting Cathedral Bluffs, skirting the Canyon Pintado Historic District and Oil Spring Mountain, and looping up around Ryan Gulch, Yellow Creek and Duck Creek.
It all adds up to years worth of work, from working alongside the BLM’s evolving travel management plan to establishing consistent, reliable funding and creating possible partnerships with adjacent counties exploring trail systems of their own.
GOC Executive Director Drew Stoll maintains that for a master trails plan to be successful, some level of implementation has to begin early on.
“As we break implementation down into different phases, we want some success in the first phase,” Stoll said at the second Rangely public workshop held in March. “It doesn’t do us any good if it takes us 20 years to open up a trail system. We need some things we can have some success with sooner than later.”
For now, that first phase includes verifying trails, establishing a collaborative group and professional organization, the latter with a potential staff person if funding and demand increase, narrowing in on trail management objectives and creating reliable maps, marketing materials and a webpage.
Among possible funding sources for the project are the Colorado OHV fund, Great Outdoors Colorado, state tourism funding and potential revenue generation.
“In order for this plan to be the most effective, it will take community involvement,” Cook said. “Both the Rangely and Meeker chambers of commerce, both towns, the county and a variety of governmental agencies will need to work collaboratively to create and market a successful, sustainable trail system. “The economic impact of a program such as this could be great for our businesses and tax revenues, and this is exactly what we are looking for — economic diversification,” she said.
To view the most recent public workshop Power Point, including the master trails draft plan and accompanying notes, visit www.wagonwheeltrails.org.