I was reading through some of the forum postings over a 14ers.com and came upon this posting that really caught my attention. Due to a lawsuit by environmentalists the US Forest Service is being forced into closing access to the Bear Creek and Jones Park areas which is one of the most popular outdoor recreation spots in Colorado Springs.
Here are the details on why the Forest Service is looking to close access to these areas:
“Rediscovered” in the 1950s, the greenback once again attracted human interest, becoming Colorado’s state fish in 1994. It also was subject to more intervention, as scientists and government officials tried to save it through decades of breeding and conservation programs.
To be frank, it didn’t work. In fact, just as efforts were beginning to show progress, a new study called into question all the assumptions on which the conservation work was based. Suddenly, it was unclear where the greenback had really come from. More disturbingly, it was unclear what made a greenback a greenback, or whether any of the fish being propagated in breeding programs were actually the threatened trout.
Then came the final blow. Last week, groundbreaking genetic testing revealed that in the wild, only about 750 true greenback trout still exist — and they all swim in the sparkling waters of Bear Creek, just southwest of Colorado Springs.
“There’s some really interesting findings in this study, although some of them may be uncomfortable,” Colorado Parks and Wildlife aquatic research scientist Kevin Rogers says. “I think they tell a really compelling story and it demonstrates how science works.”
Indeed, the study is expected to forever change the way scientists work to conserve endangered and threatened species (see “Back from the dead“). But the news also created a new flashpoint in a long-running fight.
Bear Creek, at least where it runs through Jones Park, is not just a refuge for the greenback. It’s a refuge, too, for local off-road motorcyclists (to say nothing of mountain bikers, hikers and other outdoor-recreation enthusiasts).
So, while scientists have worked away in their labs, trying to figure out how best to protect the fish, a hodgepodge of environmentalists, government employees, attorneys and motorcycle enthusiasts have been furiously debating who should have access to the trails that cross the creek. [CS Independent]
I recommend reading the rest of the article at the link. So in response to the lawsuit to protect a fish that may not even meet the definition on an endangered species the Forest Service is very quietly proposing to close these trails. The Bear Creek Trail has already been closed to motorbikes since December 2012.
Here is what trail system looks like now from the US Forest Service website:
The Yellow Line is the watershed for Bear Creek where the trout lives. The Brown Line is a trail reserved for hikers and mountain bikers. The Green Line are trails that can be used by motorbikes. The popular Bear Creek Trail is the trail that extends off of High Drive to Trail 666 which continues to Trail 667 through Jones Park. All these trails in the Jones Park area are the ones facing closure.
Here is what the Forest Service is proposing to do:
In the above map you can see the Forest Service wants to stop Trail 666 a short way up the trail and divert hikers over to Trail 622 above North Cheyenne Canyon. From North Cheyenne Canyon trail users then take trails deeper into the mountains, but cannot access Jones Park. I have hiked all these trails which you can read about at the below link:
Jones Park is one of the most beautiful areas outside the city for outdoor enthusiasts to go to and it would be a shame that people are denied access to this area especially when the vast majority of people do no harm to the fish. Why deny access to people that do not harm the fish? The motorbikes and to a much lesser extent the mountain bikes are the ones that cause the erosion into the creek the environmentalists are complaining about. Why doesn’t the Forest Service just build a trail around the protected area for motorbike use and leave the Bear Creek and Jones Park Trails open to hikers?
It seems to me the environmentalists are using this issue to stick it to the motorbike riders at the expense of everyone else. I am not a big fan of the motorbikes either because of how they drive so fast on the trails you have to sometimes dive out of the way to avoid them as they speed around a corner right at you. They also tear up the trails pretty good. If anyone wants to see the impact these bikes have on the environment look no further than what they have done to the base of Mt. Rosa:
With that all said the motorbike riders considering the amount of money they pay in permits per year that are used to maintain the trails should have access to trails that do not overly damage the environment. Considering the current situation with the Greenback Cutthroat Trout in Bear Creek in makes sense to make an alternative route around the area for the motorbikes instead of denying everyone access. This seems to be a compromise that should keep most people happy instead of banning anyone from accessing the area.
For people that are interested in voicing their displeasure with this plan a public open house is scheduled for Thursday, April 4, 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm, at the Leon Young Service Center for Colorado Springs Utilities, Pikes Peak Room, 1521 Hancock Expressway. The Forest Service is keeping this open house very quiet so people will need to spread the word themselves to other people that could be interested in attending. Maybe if enough people show up to voice their disagreement with this plan something can be done to protect access to the popular Jones Park area.