Opening Park County Trails and Keeping Them Opened!
February 22, 2023 Wildcat Canyon Trail News - Gulches Legal Challenge FiledPlease watch the video for the update and read the summary.
Watch the video here
or go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vaBEFIbI-sALegal Complaint Filed
Colorado Offroad Enterprise (CORE) has officially filed a legal complaint to challenge the decision to close roads in the Pike National Forest. These roads include The Gulches sections in Park County, the top of Twin Cone in the South Platte District and several roads in the Rampart Range Area.
The CORE Mission:
To keep trails open through action adoption, stewardship, education, collaboration and to involve multiple user groups to accomplish this goal.
Motorized Recreationists Challenge Pike San Isabel NF Travel Plan
By Patrick McKay
Patrick McKay is a board member of Colorado Offroad Enterprise (CORE) and Colorado Offroad Trail Defenders.
In September 2022, the Pike San Isabel National Forest (PSICC) in Colorado published the long awaited final decision for its controversial new travel management plan. The final decision closed approximately 123 miles of currently open motorized routes, plus multiple other routes that were temporarily closed under previous actions that will now be permanently closed. While this amounted to only a 4% net reduction in total open route mileage, these closures were disproportionately concentrated in the three ranger districts closest to the front range cities of Denver and Colorado Springs and affected several of the most popular four-wheel-drive trails in the forest. Some of the closed routes had been featured in published guidebooks and regarded as destination trails for decades, yet the Forest Service deemed them to have no recreational value and closed them. As a result, the quality of motorized recreation opportunities in the region has been severely diminished.
The motorized recreation community in Colorado is extremely disappointed with this outcome and feels that our interests were almost completely ignored throughout the entire travel management process, which was driven from the start by extremist environmental groups and anti-motorized activists within the Forest Service itself. The Forest Service based its route designation decisions solely on inaccurate data that was gathered without public input in the 2015 Travel Analysis Process and on secretive ranger district input that was never disclosed to the public. All public comments that challenged the factual assumptions underpinning the forest’s analysis were ignored. While motorized advocates managed to save a handful of minor trails through the objection process, the Forest Service dismissed the majority of our objections regarding the most popular trails subject to closure. We were left with no choice but to challenge this flawed decision in court.
On February 14, 2023, Colorado Offroad Enterprise (CORE), of which I am a board member, filed a lawsuit challenging the forest’s decision to close 12 specific road segments. The complaint primarily focuses on five roads in Wildcat Canyon along the South Platte River, as well as seven other roads in the Kenosha Pass, Fairplay, and Rampart Range areas. You can download the complaint here and all exhibits filed with it here.
Our lawsuit is only the latest chapter in the long running controversy over the roads in Wildcat Canyon, the history of which I have described in a past blog post here. It is sad it has even come to this, as this situation was supposed to have been resolved back in 2004, when the Forest Service issued a decision allowing these roads (which had been temporarily closed since the Hayman Fire in 2002) to be reopened under county jurisdiction.
That decision was intended to be a compromise that would allow motorized users to continue using these popular trails while ensuring that they would be maintained to avoid negative impacts to the South Platte River. While easements were quickly granted for the roads in Teller County, the ink on the decision was barely dry before a group of activist staff within the South Park Ranger district (including the current district ranger) began working to undermine the deal. They delayed and ultimately thwarted its full implementation by convincing the Park County government to withdraw its application for an easement in 2015, after the South Park Ranger District had stonewalled it for seven years.
The result was that only half of the Wildcat Canyon trail network was reopened, while the other half in Park County remained closed, with its two major loops severed. While the roads in Teller County were well-maintained by motorized groups, the roads in Park County deteriorated because the Forest Service refused to allow any maintenance on them while their status was in limbo, even though they continued to be regularly driven by members of the public who were unaware they were closed at the county line. Those negative impacts were then cited as reasons to decommission the routes in the travel management process.
As documented in our lawsuit, the same activist Forest Service employees worked to keep the forest from conducting any NEPA analysis on reopening the roads in the travel management process, ensuring that the ultimate decision to decommission them was predetermined. They also made multiple attempts to illegally decommission and obliterate the roads while the travel management process was still pending, being stopped only when other Forest Service employees pointed out their plans were unlawful. In the words of one such employee, “If our leadership wants to know why the motorized community does not want to cooperate with the forest service, this is a great example of why they don’t trust us. I don’t blame them for their outrage.”
One of the central themes of our lawsuit is the way the Forest Service abused the Travel Analysis Process (TAP) to generate unsupported and blatantly false route data which was then used to determine route designations in the travel management process with no public input allowed. According to both Forest Service policy, the Travel Analysis Process is supposed to be a separate process from travel management. It is intended to generate baseline data that can be used to inform future travel management processes, not dictate their outcomes. Forest Service policy requires rigorous public involvement in both stages of the process, and specifically requires that the public be allowed to be given input in actual route designation decisions.
In the case of the Pike San Isabel National Forest, each ranger district produced its own travel analysis report around 2015, in which they assigned a range of risk and benefit scores to each route segment evaluated. These scores, which included things like recreational use benefit and wildlife risk, were based largely off of GIS data and the personal knowledge of district staff. These scores were later run through a formula to determine the ultimate designation of each route in the travel management process, with high value routes being retained as part of the “minimum road system” and low value routes being closed.
Each travel analysis report was subject to a 30 day public comment period which was not widely publicized and received only a handful of comments, in contrast to the thousands of comments received during each of the comment periods for the travel management process. Because of the forest’s failure to seek the input of motorized recreationists who actually use the trails, the many inaccuracies in the travel analysis reports were only discovered during the travel management process. Yet the forest chose to ignore all public comments challenging route designations based on inaccurate travel analysis scores, stating that decisions based on the TAP scores were not open to revision. Moreover, any route-specific recommendations included in the TAP reports by ranger district staff were automatically adopted in the preferred alternative regardless of their merit, and all public comments calling for different outcomes were ignored.
As argued in our lawsuit, the PSICC essentially treated the TAP reports as a dispositive travel management decision rather than a preliminary information gathering step, and then attempted to unlawfully “tier to” those documents to avoid having to conduct any real NEPA analysis of the impacts of individual routes in the travel management process. District staff were able to use the TAP scores and recommendations to largely predetermine the outcome of the travel management process, in blatant violation of NEPA and Forest Service policy. In the case of the roads in Wildcat Canyon, activist district staff manipulated the process by giving the roads blatantly false recreational benefit scores, ranking them as low benefit despite explicit findings in two prior NEPA processes that these roads had extremely high recreational value. Most of the other roads cited in our lawsuit were likewise given absurdly low recreational benefit scores, dooming them to unjustified closure.
The proper way for forests to determine their “minimum road system” (MRS) as required by the Travel Management Rule has always been a murky question with no clear answer. The PSICC claimed in its decision that the MRS was essentially determined by the TAP, even though Forest Service policy states that it is determined by the travel management process. Should our case go to trial, it will be (to the best of my knowledge) the first time the extent to which the travel analysis process can be relied upon for travel management has ever been litigated.
We believe it is clear that the PSICC violated NEPA and NFMA in multiple significant ways, not the least of which involved road closures in Wildcat Canyon that the forest itself had previously determined would violate the forest plan. As we know from internal emails we received, even some Forest Service employees considered the shenanigans the forest was trying to pull regarding some of these roads shameful.
I’m interested to hear the thoughts of people in this community on the forest’s actions here. The underhanded way in which certain activist employees were able to rig the process to close a number of highly prized motorized trails should be concerning to all. Legalities aside, the forest’s actions have caused a total loss of trust within the motorized community that will make it considerably more difficult for them to obtain our cooperation in the future.December 1, 2022 Wildcat Canyon Trail News
We are currently formulating our legal response to the Forest Service Record of Decision. Please go the Go Fund Me page and make a donation to support this legal challenge. If you have already made a donation please consider another donation. A court challenge of this type could cost over one hundred thousand dollars. If you or friends want to see the trails at the river opened this will be our last chance. Spread the word friends and others organizations to help.
April 29, 2021
We started working to find a solution for The Gulches Trail System in Park County more than two years ago. Many of you have followed the process and helped us along the way. Unfortunately, our only option to save the full Gulches Trail System is through the legal process. Watch the video below for the latest update.
Watch the video by clicking here
or going to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOHWfr68ZWsDonate Now at Go Fund Me
or go to
August 28, 2020
This has been a busy year for the fight to reopen Wildcat Canyon! Early this year, Predator 4WD and Colorado Offroad Enterprise (CORE) hired an attorney to file a FOIA request about the Forest Service’s actions with respect to the Park County trails in Wildcat Canyon.
Through the internal Forest Service emails we received in response, we discovered that South Park District Ranger Josh Voorhis not only helped block Park County from being granted an easement back in 2014, but he is currently collaborating with the anti-motorized environmental group Wild Connections to circumvent the ongoing travel management process and permanently close and obliterate the roads on the western side of the canyon.
Voorhis purchased metal barriers to block access to the Park County roads last summer and was still searching for a contractor to install them as of late 2019. Then this July, he gave Wild Connections permission to do a work project (funded by a grant from Park County) later this summer to remove all the old signs and fencing along the Park County trails.
This metal removal project was the first step toward full decommissioning in the plan Mr. Voorhis announced in an internal memo in 2018, which caused another Forest Service employee to say, “If our leadership wants to know why the motorized community does not want to cooperate with the forest service, this is a great example of why they don’t trust us. I don’t blame them for their outrage.”
Once those signs and fences (originally placed by Predator 4WD decades ago) are removed, it will be much easier for the Forest to obliterate the roads from the ground, and much harder for us to get them reopened. The Forest Service is allowing Wild Connections to proceed with this project despite the personal assurances of Forest Supervisor Diana Trujilo that no decommissioning work would be done on the roads in Wildcat Canyon this year.
This is unfortunate as it shows the Forest has no interest in partnering with or maintaining the trust of motorized groups who wish to see these trails reopened, and has already predetermined to close them regardless of public demand for motorized recreational opportunities in Wildcat Canyon. At this point we have no choice but to assume the Forest has not been proceeding with good faith in this matter, and to prepare for inevitable objections and likely litigation over the Forest Service’s malfeasance regarding these roads.
Call to Action
We call on all motorized recreationists to write to Supervisor Trujillo expressing extreme disappointment over her decision to allow Ranger Voorhis and Wild Connections to proceed with decommissioning these roads before the travel management process is even complete. We also ask that you write to Congressman Doug Lamborn, and the Park County Commission about these trails. This is an election year, and enough attention from motorized users could persuade the county commissioners to reverse their current position that they want nothing to do with this controversy and will defer to the Forest Service’s decision to close these roads.
The fight is not over yet, and the offroad community in Colorado is hopeful that these treasured roads will once again be open motorized travel. Click here [link to full article] to read the full story of the battle for Wildcat Canyon.
● Forest Supervisor Diana Trujillo - Send Email
● Congressman Doug Lamborn -
● Park County Commissioner Mike Brazell - Contact Information
● Park County Commissioner Dick Elsner - Contact Information
● Park County Commissioner Ray Douglas - Park County, CO
Park County Commissioners Office
PO Box 1373
Fairplay, CO 80440
The Fight For Wildcat Canyon
By Patrick McKay
The author’s Jeep on the currently open section of the Hackett Gulch trail in Wildcat Canyon.
A coalition of motorized access groups led by Colorado Offroad Enterprise (CORE), has recently uncovered a disturbing plot by officials in the Pike San Isabel National Forest to illegally close one of the most popular motorized trail systems in Colorado in circumvention of the ongoing travel management process and in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
For many decades, off-road vehicle enthusiasts nationwide have enjoyed driving the rugged four-wheel-drive roads in Wildcat Canyon in the Pike National Forest. Located in a steep canyon along the South Platte River about an hour’s drive west of Colorado Springs on the border between Teller and Park Counties, these Jeep trails are also known as “The Gulches” after the three primary trails of Hackett, Longwater, and Metberry Gulches. Since roughly the late 1950s, these roads have been one of the most popular off-road trail systems in the Front Range for recreation enthusiasts seeking adventure, offering a unique set of off-road challenges, river access for swimming and fishing, and spectacular scenery in a rugged gorge filled with towering rock formations.
Since the early 2000s, however, Wildcat Canyon has been ground zero for one of the most contentious battles in Colorado between off-roaders and environmental groups determined to close these roads and lock motorized users, but not themselves, out of the canyon in the name of “conservation.” In 2002, the area around Wildcat Canyon was devastated by the Hayman Fire, the largest wildfire in Colorado history. All of the roads in the region were temporarily closed after the fire, and the Forest Service subsequently began working on a new environmental analysis to determine how to manage the roads in the burn zone.
After a highly contentious public comment period with off-road groups facing off against environmental groups wishing to close Wildcat Canyon to motorized use, the Forest Service issued a decision in 2004 which concluded that re-opening the roads in the canyon was the best option both to meet the public demands for motorized recreation and to protect the environment. However, due to its limited resources, the Forest Service would only allow the roads to be reopened if the relevant county governments agreed to take responsibility for maintaining these roads.
Teller County immediately applied for and was quickly granted easements allowing it to take over management of the eastern half of the Gulches trail system, which was reopened to the public by 2009, with the Colorado Springs off-road group Predator 4WD agreeing to maintain the trails on behalf of the county as they had already done for many years prior.
Park County, which contains the western half of the trail system, first applied for an easement in 2008. In contrast to Teller County, Park County’s attempts to obtain easements were repeatedly stonewalled by the Forest Service. Ultimately, Park County submitted no less than four easement applications between 2008 and 2014, with each being met with either silence or excuses from the Forest Service such as claims to have lost the paperwork or not having the budget to process it. Internal Forest Service emails obtained by CORE show agency employees, including two different South Park District rangers, repeatedly searching for reasons not to grant the easements and attempting to discourage Park County officials from moving forward with their request.
Finally in 2015, Park County Manager Tom Eisenman retracted the county’s easement application, apparently without obtaining the approval of the Park County Commission, leaving the Park County roads in limbo. With the eastern half of the trail system open and no signs or barriers at the county line to indicate the roads in Park County were closed, they have continued to be regularly driven by motorized users to this day.
New Travel Management Process
Also in 2015, a lawsuit by a coalition of preservationist groups resulted in a settlement agreement in which the Pike San Isabel National Forest agreed to completely re-do its motorized travel plan with a new travel management process. During the scoping period in 2016, the Forest Service received numerous comments asking it to reopen the closed roads in Wildcat Canyon.
The Forest Service responded by including an alternative in the draft EIS published in 2019, which considered reopening some (but not all) of these roads, leaving out crucial connecting routes to restore the loop opportunities provided by the original trail system. This analysis was flawed from the start, as it relied on a 2015 Travel Analysis Report written by South Park District Ranger Josh Voorhis which rated most of these roads as having low recreational value solely because they were currently closed, rather than considering the incredibly high value they had for motorized recreation when they were open.
Internal emails show that Mr. Voorhis strongly opposed including these roads in the travel management EIS at all, as he had already decided to permanently close and decommission them. As a result of the wide latitude Voorhis was given in making decisions for the roads in his district, the preferred alternative in the 2019 draft EIS proposed to decommission almost all of the Wildcat Canyon roads in Park County, with no indication that any serious consideration was ever given to reopening them. The preferred alternative also contained more road closures in the South Park District than in all other districts combined.
The Plot to Decommission the Roads
Instead of waiting for a final decision on the Wildcat Canyon roads to be made in the travel management process, Mr. Voorhis (along with South Platte District Ranger Brian Banks) decided to circumvent that process entirely and began working with local anti-motorized user groups to illegally decommission the roads with no environmental analysis or public involvement.
In May of 2018, Voorhis wrote an internal memo kicking off a decommissioning project with three elements: (1) Removing all existing metal signs and fencing from the Park County roads, (2) installing heavy metal barriers blocking access to the closed Park County roads from the open roads in Teller County, and (3) re-contouring the roads on the west side of the river to physically remove them from the ground. Another Forest Service employee strongly objected to Voorhis’ plan, saying in an email that decommissioning these highly desirable roads in a controversial area with no supporting environmental analysis or public input was illegal and invited distrust and justified outrage from the motorized community.
Nevertheless, Voorhis moved forward with his project, purchasing the metal barriers in the summer of 2019 and searching for contractors to install them that fall. Simultaneously, he and a Forest Service biologist with a demonstrably strong bias against motorized recreation wrote up a document claiming “changed circumstances” which would prevent Park County from being granted an easement under the 2004 EA, thereby thwarting a renewed push by CORE and other motorized groups to get Park County to re-apply for an easement in spring 2019.
It was during the public comment period for the draft EIS in fall 2019 that CORE first became aware of Voorhis’ plans to decommission these roads, when he unsuccessfully sought permission from Teller County to barricade the roads on the east side of the canyon further up in Teller County. CORE subsequently hired an attorney to file a FOIA request for all Forest Service documents pertaining to Wildcat Canyon, which we obtained in early 2020.
The Forest Supervisor’s Response
Having learned through the documents provided in response to our FOIA request of Voorhis’ plans to install permanent barriers blocking access to the Park County roads sometime in 2020, CORE wrote to Forest Supervisor Diana Trujillo this spring asking for her assurance that no actions would be taken to decommission any roads in Wildcat Canyon until after a final decision was made in the travel management EIS. After a phone conversation with the Supervisor in May, Deputy Forest Supervisor Dave Condit wrote to us on her behalf on July 1 stating that, “The Forest does not plan to do any work on the roads in Wildcat Canyon this year. There will be no changes until we complete our Travel Management Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and sign the subsequent project Record of Decision (ROD).”
Unfortunately, this assurance turned out to be false. On the same day Mr. Condit sent his email, Wild Connections (the lead environmental group pushing for closure of Wildcat Canyon) published their July monthly newsletter in which they announced they had received a grant from Park County and permission from the South Park Ranger District to move forward with a “metal removal project” in Wildcat Canyon later this summer.
This project was the same as the first element of Mr. Voorhis’ decommissioning plan from May 2018, removing all the old signs and fencing from the Park County roads in preparation for obliterating the routes from the ground. Those signs and fences were originally placed decades ago by Predator 4WD in partnership with the Forest, and continue to be helpful today in preventing drivers who inadvertently drive the closed roads without knowing of the closure from going off trail. They would also be critical for this purpose if the roads were ever legally reopened.
When CORE contacted Ms. Trujillo again in August with these concerns and asked her to prevent Wild Connections from completing this project until a final travel management decision has been made, she dismissed our concerns, falsely claiming that the metal removal work was not decommissioning and it would not affect the outcome of the travel management process.
This is unfortunate as it shows the Forest has no interest in partnering with or maintaining the trust of motorized groups who wish to see these trails reopened, and has already predetermined to close them regardless of public demand for motorized recreational opportunities in Wildcat Canyon. At this point CORE has no choice but to assume the Forest has not been proceeding with good faith in this matter, and to prepare for inevitable objections and likely litigation over the Forest Service’s malfeasance regarding these roads.
Call to Action
Well call on all motorized recreationists to write to Supervisor Trujillo expressing extreme disappointment over her decision to allow Ranger Voorhis and Wild Connections to proceed with decommissioning these roads before the travel management process is even complete. We also ask that you write to Congressman Doug Lamborn, and the Park County Commission about these trails. This is an election year, and enough attention from motorized users could persuade the county commissioners to reverse their current position that they want nothing to do with this controversy and will defer to the Forest Service’s decision to close these roads.
The fight is not over yet. The off-road community in Colorado is hopeful that, if enough individuals get involved and show that motorized recreation is important to them, these treasured roads will once again be open to all outdoor recreation enthusiasts.
● Forest Supervisor Diana Trujillo: email@example.com
● Congressman Doug Lamborn: https://lamborn.house.gov/zip-code-lookup?form=/contact/email-me
● Park County Commissioner Mike Brazell: https://parkco.us/FormCenter/Contact-Us-4/Contact-Commissioner-Brazell-182
● Park County Commissioner Dick Elsner: https://parkco.us/FormCenter/Contact-Us-4/Contact-Commissioner-Elsner-180
● Park County Commissioner Ray Douglas: Park County, CO
Update: November 5, 2019
The time period to comment on the trails is now over. The next step takes place in November of 2020 when the Forest Service announces their decision.
Update: October 18, 2019
Your comments are needed to open Wildcat Canyon.
All written comments need to be submitted by November 4, 2019.The Forest Service has decided not to open any trails in Wildcat Canyon unless there are overwhelming written comments requesting that the trails be opened. Tell your friends and club members to comment by the cutoff date of November 4, 2019.
Mail written comments to:
John Dow, PSICC Forest Planner
2840 Kachina Drive,
Pueblo, CO, 81008
News Release: September 19, 2019
Pike and San Isabel National Forest Officials Release Draft of Environmental Impact Statement for Public Motor Vehicle Use
Forest officials aim to continue working with all citizens to designate a motor vehicle
use system within the Forests that balances the needs of forest users with protecting the land
PUEBLO, Colo., September 19, 2019 — Officials from the Pike and San Isabel National Forests and Comanche and Cimarron National Grasslands (PSICC) today released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for public motor vehicle use. The Notice of Availability will publish in the Federal Register on September 20, 2019, initiating the formal 45-day public comment period that ends November 4, 2019.
The Draft Environmental Impact Statement is part of the 2005 Travel Management Rule, requiring National Forests and Grasslands to designate roads, trails and areas that are open for motorized use. It offers five alternatives for a system of designated roads, trails and areas by class of vehicle and season of use. The alternatives reflect input from forest users, partners, and state and local governments.
“Feedback on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement will help strengthen our analysis,” said Forest and Grassland Supervisor Diana Trujillo. “Hearing the voices of various forest users is extremely important to us. Our goal is to designate a motorized system that works for the public while caring for natural and cultural resources.”The Alternatives
The alternatives address a range of concerns about resource impacts from motor vehicle use, reduced motorized access, and potential conflicts between motorized and non-motorized users. The five alternatives are summarized below.Alternative A
Public Motorized Routes Prior to Settlement, is the Forest’s public motorized route system prior to the November 2015 settlement agreement.Alternative B
Settlement Action Proposal, removes all roads and trails not previously analyzed as identified in the November 2015 settlement agreement. Alternative B reduces the Pike and San Isabel National Forest’s motorized network by 34 percent.Alternative C
Proposed Action, emphasizes a safe and environmentally sound system of roads, trails and areas that allows for existing forest uses and access to private property. It decreases roads open to motor vehicle use by just under 11 percent and increases trails open by almost 22 percent. The 4 percent overall reduction in roads and trails specified under the proposed action aims to reasonably address and balance the expressed concerns of motorized users, non-motorized users and environmental groups.Alternative D
Motorized-Recreation-Focused Proposal, emphasizes public motor vehicle use and recreation. This alternative combines parts of Alternative C with motorized routes proposed during public scoping. It proposes new motorized areas. Alternative D decreases motorized access by about 3 percent overall.Alternative E
Non-Motorized-Recreation-Focused Proposal, emphasizes natural resource protection, habitat quality and non-motorized recreation while providing the least amount of public motor vehicle access across the forest. Alternative E decreases motorized access by just over 50 percent overall.
The Travel Management Rule exempts the following from designation: aircraft, watercraft, and over-snow vehicles; use by the military, law enforcement, firefighters, and Forest Service for administrative activities; permitted special uses, such as livestock grazing, mining, logging, and collecting fuelwood, Christmas trees and other forest products; and access to pipeline and utility corridors, as well as access to private land.
Forest officials will host four meetings for the public
to review the alternatives, ask questions and
learn how to submit comments.
Please attend a meeting listed below.Salida
Date: Oct. 8, 2019
6:00 PM-7:30 PM
220 West Sackett
Salida, CO 81201Pueblo
Date: Oct. 9, 2019
6:00 PM-7:30 PM
Pueblo Community College
900 W. Orman Ave. Student Center, Room 234
Pueblo, CO 81004Denver
Date: Oct. 10, 2019
6:00 PM-7:30 PM
MindSpark Learning, West Room
455 South Pierce Street Lakewood, CO 80226Colorado Springs
Date: Oct. 11, 2019
6:00 PM-7:30 PM
S4 Inc. Center For Excellence 1925 Aerotech Drive
Colorado Springs, Colorado 80916
Written comments must be submitted in person,
through the online comment portal, or mailed to: John Dow, PSICC Forest Planner
2840 Kachina Drive,
Pueblo, CO, 81008
Comments, including the names and addresses of respondents, will be part of the public record. Anonymous comments will be accepted and considered, but those submitting comments anonymously will not have standing to object to the final decision. Only those who commented during this process will be eligible to object the final decision. Comments should be clear and specific to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement and must be submitted by November 4, 2019.
After considering the comments submitted, Forest officials will prepare a Final Environmental Impact Statement and designate a system of roads, trails and areas open for motor vehicle use by class of vehicle and season of use. The decision is expected to publish in the Federal Register in November of 2020.
Six new motor vehicle use maps will be published for the Pike and San Isabel National Forests. These new maps will complement the two that already exist for the Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands. All will be available free of charge.
The Draft Environmental Impact Statement can be found at: https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=48214 under the “Analysis” tab.
Media Contact: Julie Bain
(719) 553-1415 firstname.lastname@example.org
Below are some talking points for your consideration.
• The four-wheel-drive roads in Wildcat Canyon (aka The Gulches) have historically been some of the most highly valued motorized routes in the Pike National Forest, providing multiple full-size loop routes with spectacular scenery and access to a remote portion of the South Platte River. They are open all year and close to the Front Range making them popular spring and fall destinations for four-wheel-drive clubs.
• The Park County portions of FS 220 Hackett Gulch, FS 220.A Crossover, FS 220.B Widow Maker, FS 221 Longwater Gulch, and FS 540 Corral Creek have been closed since the Hayman Fire in 2002.
• In 2004 the Forest Service conducted an environmental analysis and concluded the benefits of reopening these roads outweigh the environmental risks.
• The Forest Service attempted to evade responsibility for these roads by granting counties easements and making the counties responsible for maintenance.
• Only Teller County obtained an easement and took over jurisdiction of its portions of the roads, which were reopened by 2009. Park County’s easement application was lost twice and then Park County decided it was no longer interested in managing its portions of the roads (reaffirmed in an April 2019 press release).
• The closed Park County roads are stuck in limbo in Maintenance Level 1 (ML1) status. The Forest Service has abdicated its responsibility to manage them or enforce the closures, resulting in widespread illegal use and road deterioration.
• The currently open portions of Hackett, Longwater, and Metberry Gulch are heavily used and are restricted to use only as out-and-back trails, increasing congestion, user conflicts, and resource damage.
• The current situation is unsustainable. The Forest Service must take responsibility for managing these roads and make a final decision on their status.
• The range of alternatives in the DEIS is inadequate with respect to the Wildcat Canyon area, as none of the alternatives fully reopens all of the Park County roads or allows full-size vehicles to complete the Hackett to Longwater or South Hackett to Sportsman loops. Some alternatives close half of Metberry.
• The Forest Service should modify at least one alternative (preferably Alternative C) to fully reopen FS 220, 220.A, 220.B, 540, and 221 as trails open to all vehicles, while keeping FS 205, 897, and 202 open as well.
• The 2015 Travel Analysis reports improperly classified all of these roads except lower Corral Creek and Longwater as having low recreational value merely because of their current ML1 status, ignoring their historical extremely high value for their recreational experience.
• The DEIS management recommendations for roads with high recreational value and high watershed risk are harden water crossings and convert to trails open to all vehicles. This is the best management recommendation for these roads.
• Designating these roads as trails open to all vehicles would relax engineering standards and allow four-wheel-drive clubs to maintain them using grant money from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife OHV fund.
• The Forest Service previously found that reopening these roads with regular maintenance would decrease overall environmental impacts including sedimentation and water quality in the rivers and harm to fish. Erosion concerns could be mitigated with maintenance.
• If water crossings are proven to cause harm, the Forest Service should investigate installing engineered low water crossing structures or bridges.
• Increased motorized recreation in the area would not threaten Scenic status for the Platte River under the Wild and Scenic River study. Just closing roads would not make the river eligible for Wild status, as the 2A management classification for the Wildcat Canyon area already precludes Wild status. That would require a Forest Plan amendment to change.
• Slow recovery of vegetation in Wildcat Canyon and continued impaired water quality is not caused by OHVs and should not preclude reopening trails.
• The introduction of bighorn sheep is not a changed condition that should preclude reopening roads, as bighorn sheep can coexist with roads and 4WD trails have a minimal effect on them.
• The Forest Plan’s 2A management designation for the area with emphasis on motorized recreation makes Wildcat Canyon unsuitable for quiet use recreation.
• Closing motorized trails to convert them to hiking trails is unfair to motorized recreationists and contrary to the spirit of the Travel Management Rule, which recognizes motorized recreation as a legitimate use of National Forest land.
• The nearby Lost Creek Wilderness offers a far superior quiet use experience. Those seeking to hike in the area should go there rather than demanding motorized trails in Wildcat Canyon be closed in order to give them exclusive access.
_______________________________________________Important Update: March 28, 2019
Various meetings have taken place but the trails remain closed to motorized vehicles. The environmental assessment study for the Pike San Isabel (PSI) lawsuit has been completed and is due out soon. It will be the LAST chance to comment and request that these trails be re-opened.
Unless we obtain the backing from the Park County Commissioners, the trails will remain closed indefinitely. The Park County Commissioners are the key to getting these trails reopened for motorized vehicle use. If you want to see these trails opened it’s critical that you take action now and contact the Park County Commissioners to ask for their support.
Contact the Park County commissioners office and request that they adopt the Park County trails so they can remain opened to motorized vehicles.
Park County Commissioners Office
PO Box 1373
Fairplay, CO 80440
Trails in Wildcat Canyon
The trails in the Wildcat Canyon have continued to deteriorate at a disturbing rate. This is not good news for 4-wheel drive enthusiasts.
The Pike San Isabel lawsuit is still in progress. Even though there are organizations that support our concerns and are on top of the situation; the Forest Service has conducted closed-door meetings with anti-access groups. The Trail Preservation Alliance and COHVCO have notified the Forest Service that these exclusive closed-door meetings may be violating the law.
The Forest Service allowed motorists use of the trails but unfortunately motorists are also using the closed trails and the Forest Service does not have the resources to stop them.
Volunteers in the motorized community have offered to help with the trail maintenance but the Forest Service has declined their offers.
The Forest Service said there is too much sediment run off at the river. They haven't had the funding to find the true cause so they decided to close the trails to motorized vehicles, even though the actual cause could be attributed to bikers, hikers, environmental issues, animals and weather conditions.
Adding markers to help keep users on the trails and placing a sign at the river with guidelines on the proper use of the area could provide additional guidance for users who might be unaware of the concerns. The Forest Service acknowledges that educating users is the best answer to protecting public lands but they have dismissed requests to add these markers that would help make Wildcat Canyon a self-guided educational classroom.
Proper use of the trails
Over the years, 4-wheel drive groups adopted these trails, maintained them at their own expense and guided others in the proper use of the trails.
We can all help educate users why these areas are unique and how to properly use the trails in public lands so the trails can be opened and enjoyed by the motorized community.
Here are some suggestions on how you can help:
• Don't drive on the closed trails.
• Teller Country trails are open because Teller County adopted those trails and allowed motorized vehicles access to those trails.
• Support the businesses in Teller County which support motorized recreation.
• Contact Teller County commissioners and thank them for supporting motorized vehicles in public lands.
Teller County Commissioners Office
PO Box 959
Cripple Creek, CO 80813
• Contact the Park County commissioners office and request that they adopt the Park County trails so they can remain opened to motorized vehicles.
Park County Commissioners Office
PO Box 1373
Fairplay, CO 80440
• If you vote in Park County, contact the Park County commissioners to share your concerns about trail closures in the Wildcat Canyon and ask the commissioners for their support.
• If you see anyone not respecting public lands take a minute to educate them.
• Guide users to visit websites such as “Stay the trail in Colorado” to learn proper use of motorized vehicles on trails.
• Offer to take new users on a trail ride to show them proper respect and use of public lands.
• Support organizations such as the Trail Preservation Alliance www.coloradotpa.org and COHVCO www.cohvco.org. Both of these local organizations are supporting the use of motorized vehicle in public lands.
• Support organizations such as Blue Ribbon Coalition (Share Trails) www.sharetrails.org which is supporting the use of motorized vehicles in public lands on a national level.
Now is your chance to take action to do more. Support these organizations and contact the representatives to voice your concerns.
June 25, 2017
We received several calls from concerned users about the abandoned 2008 Chevrolet left on the trails. We contacted Park County and the Forest Service and were able to remove the abandoned vehicle with the help of volunteers.
Forest Service 540 is still closed. Longwater is still closed at the county line. The Forest Service opened Hackett Forest Service 220 to the river and currently has no plans to close it.
Be aware that burnt trees are rotting, falling and blocking the trails in certain areas. Be prepared and equipped to remove fallen trees from the trails. Please do not drive around them or create short cuts. The trails are open with the cooperation of Teller County. Staying on the trails is critical to keeping them open.
March 23, 2017
The trails remain closed at the Teller County line. The trails include: Longwater Gulch FS 221, Hackett Crossover FS 220A, Corral Creek FS 540 trails. Metberry FS 205 is open to the Platte River. Hackett FS 220 was opened by the Forest Service, but keep in mind there is not a maintenance agreement for Park County, so the trails may be more hazardous in Park County.
August 25, 2016
The Forest Service meeting was held on August 25, 2016. The purpose of the meeting was to speak out so the trails at Wildcat Canyon (the Gulches) could be fully opened to four wheel enthusiasts
We asked four wheel enthusiasts to get behind our effort to open the trails by spreading the word to friends, neighbors and colleagues to join us at the Forest Service meeting to show your support. A BIG turnout by local and vocal residents was vital to ensure the future of the Canyon. More than 100 people attended.
Why it mattered to attend:
1. Park County submitted an easement request twice because prior requests were lost.
2. The area has been maintained mostly by user groups for the past 25 years.
3. User groups have demonstrated how much they value this area by keeping it well maintained - often at their own expense!
4. Volunteer involvement in the area has been very high and will continue to be high if we care enough to voice our concerns.
May 26, 2015
Over the last several weeks Colorado has experienced a large amount of rain; as a result, the trails can be unpredictable. Trees can often fall across the trials and washouts can occur. As always, be prepared to cut trees that may have fallen down and block the trail. Trail maintenance will be planned after the rains subside in the coming weeks.
May 6, 2015
- Please stay on the trails and respect any side route closures. A number of the trails remain closed.
June 2, 2014
The Forest Service has listed FS220 on the Federal Registry as open. So for now, Hackett Gulch is open all the way to the river. The Forest Service didn't intend to open this trail, they actually intended to open only the ATV trail. As a result, they must now go through normal channels to close it again. Closing the trail may happen at any time. We will post updates as soon as we receive news of the progress on these trails.
February 6, 2014
Park County has decided to resubmit their application for the trails in Park County with the intent that doing so will speed up the process. They are resubmitting the application with a cover letter which explains the application was first submitted in 2010 and it was lost by the Forest Service. Their desire is that by taking additional action steps, it will give this project the priority it deserves.
October 13, 2013
We wanted to keep you updated and informed on the status of the trail openings. The trails are there for all to enjoy. Through your continued support and interest, more trails are in the process of being opened.
- The trails in Teller County are now open for your enjoyment. Please stay on the trails and respect any side route closures.
- Trails in Park County have been closed since the Haymen fire in 2002. They remain closed as of October 2013.
We have had many meetings with various Park County Commissioners. Park County has agreed to adopt these trails from the Forest Service.
Park County's application had been lost by the Forest Service; however, progress is being made to find that application and move it forward. Once found and accepted, another meeting with Park County will take place to confirm adoption. Work will need to be done to bring these trails up to par before they are opened to the public. Please respect their closures while the process plays out. We will update the website as progress is made and we will let you know when volunteers are needed to do any work to open the remaining trails.
August 1, 2013
Results of the meeting with Predator 4WD, Teller County and the Forest Service
that took place on July 15, 2013.
Predator 4WD is continuing to work with Teller County and the Forest Service to keep the trails open and we will keep you updated on the status of these trail openings.
- Metberry remains open to the Platte River and the trail is in good condition.
- There is one unauthorized route that will be closed at the bottom of Chicken Scratch hill.
- Hacket is closed at the Teller County Line.
- The gate has been taken down at the Hackett/Teller County line, but the trail below remains closed and tickets can be issued for violations.
- Longwater is closed at the Teller County Line.
- Longwater's water bars are washed out because of the recent rains, which is making the trail a bit more challenging.
We encourage you to follow the forest service guidelines and stay on the trails. Teller County acknowledged that they are pleased with the respect that users show on the trail system. By observing their requests and staying on the trails, we can all look forward to enjoying our adventures and our time on these great trails.
Are You Interested in Helping to Keep the Trails Open?
Predator 4WD, LLC continues to work with Teller County and the Forest Service to open the Park County Trails. Those interested in helping can join and/or contribute to COHVCO under the S.O.S. program. Individuals can purchase a S.O.S sticker at Predator 4WD or on line at http://www.cohvco.org/
The funds will be used for opening the trails and keeping the trails opened. Even if you’re already a member of COHVCO, buying a sticker helps the legal defense funding.
To be added to a volunteer email list, please email email@example.com with the subject of "Volunteer" and we will add you to the volunteer email. Thank you for your continued support!