Opposition is mounting to a proposed plan to ban bikes from a new rerouting of the Colorado Trail and the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail — or the CDNST — in southern Colorado's Cochetopa Hills area of the Rio Grande National Forest.
For the last two years, the Forest Service has studied the development of a new, 31.2-mile trail in the area to pull CDNST hikers off a hard-to-navigate maze of gravel roads used by cars, motorcycles, horseback riders, hikers and cyclists.
After studying four alternatives in an environmental assessment, the Forest Service has identified a proposed action that would keep bikes off the new trail from Lujan Pass to the La Garita Wilderness. The agency cited trail erosion by bikes as well as the "social effects" of mountain bike use when it suggested its preferred alternative.
"A biker coming around a corner at high speed can come upon a hiker before either party is aware of the other," reads the Forest Service's review of each alternative. "In general terms, bicycle use on the CDNST is not consistent with the overall objectives" of the trail.
Technically, that is correct, if not outdated. When the 3,100-mile trail's mission was outlined in the late 1960s, it was designed to provide "scenic, primitive hiking and horseback riding opportunities" along the Rocky Mountain corridor from Canada to New Mexico. There weren't many mountain bikes around back then.
But mountain bikers are abundant today. The environmental assessment cites a daily hiker's month-long tally of 236 hikers and 77 mountain bikers on this stretch of the CDNST this summer. Jason Bertolacci, president of the Colorado Mountain Association, said the reroute could becomes one of Colorado's "great destination rides," like Kenosha Pass.
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