Conservation Committee

Minutes

October 1, 2008

THOSE PRESENT: Kirk Cunningham, Jim Gallo, and Rob Smoke

1. RECREATION USES COMPETITION AT THE BOULDER RESERVOIR -Rob Smoke

For Rob, swimming in chlorine-free freshwater is a favorite form of recreation, and the Boulder Reservoir in summer is one of the few places in the County where swimming is allowed (in a roped-off area of the Reservoir) and where a lifeguard is present. His complaint is that motorized boating on the Reservoir, with accompanying noise, physical hazard, and water pollution, makes non-motorized recreation, including swimming, fishing, rowing and sailing, less inviting. He argues that motorized boating should be banned from the Reservoir (as it is in many other Front Range reservoirs) during the warm summer months. The Boulder Parks and Recreation Advisory Board will be considering a draft Master Plan for Reservoir management in November, and Rob is asking the Sierra Club to examine that draft Plan, and if necessary, take a stand against motorized use, at least during summer months. His argument is bulleted below:

* Although the present arrangement has been in effect for about 20 years, the increasing use of motorized craft is posing a conflict with other uses. The present management, with about 600 permitted motorized users and hefty annual permit fees, tends to create an economic incentive to the Parks and Recreation Department for continuing it. In addition, the large vested interest of boat owners in their equipment, the increasing price of gas, and the proximity of the Reservoir have created a vocal interest group devoted to continuing the present arrangement.

* The “constant din” of motorized craft (motorboats and jetskis) creates an ambiance that turns off quiet users of the Reservoir. This should be documentable in principle from declines in daily permits for swimmers and non-motorized boaters. Rob said that he was conducting a petition drive of non-motorized users to get support for his views.

* Jetskis in particular are very fuel inefficient and pollute Reservoir waters with unburned fuel.

* Since the swimming season is shorter than the motorized boating season because of the need for warmer water, it should be possible to allow motorized use of the Reservoir during spring and fall months and reserve June through August for non-motorized uses. [When asked whether alternating uses (e.g. as at Betasso Preserve) during the warm season would be a useful compromise alternative, Rob did not seem to like that idea.]

 

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POLL ON RECREATIONAL USES AT BOULDER RESERVOIR - Please respond to Kirk Cunningham at the email address below
1) Should the Sierra Club get involved with this issue?
2) If so, should we advocate a reduced access to the Reservoir for motorized boating? Any particular alternatives that you would support?
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2. BOULDER OPEN SPACE AND MOUNTAIN PARKS - WEST TRAIL STUDY AREA

The Indian Peaks Group is represented by Leah and Brandon Hollinder on a city-run stakeholders’ group that is discussing the situation with trails in the Flatirons from Eldorado Canyon to Mount Sanitas, i.e. among other issues what new trails (allowing new uses like bikes) are needed and what should be done to make existing system and user-created trails more sustainable. Rules on dog use in this area are also on the table. The recreation-oriented groups on the TSA stakeholders’ group have circulated a proposed “consensus document” on a number of management issues in the Flatirons. Please see in the Appendix below the text of that document, and some responses from Kirk Cunningham, Jim Gallo and Ray Bridge (PLAN Boulder) on it. There is also a poll there for your opinions about the Club’s involvement in this issue.

3. WILDERNESS BILL LOBBYING REPORT FROM TODD SANFORD, IPG NATIONAL FOREST CHAIR.

Todd went to Washington DC during September 21-23 to participate in the national Sierra Club’s Public Lands Day citizen lobbying effort on behalf of a national omnibus wilderness bill. One piece of that bill is a wilderness designation for most of Rocky Mountain National Park. Here is his report on his visit to various members of the Colorado delegation:

“....First, Diana DeGette's staffer mentioned how she has been somewhat disappointed with the Colorado environmental community for their opposition to her stance on not wanting to slice up her proposed [BLM] wilderness bill. She feels that if individual parcels are looked at for designation inevitably some will be lost, which is not acceptable for her. The staffer also mentioned specifically that she would like to work more with the Sierra Club.

There was also a letter circulating in the House to oppose proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act, specifically the Section 7 consultation bit (agencies would no longer have to use outside consultation for projects that affect endangered species habitat). I was disappointed to hear John Salazar's staffer say that he would not sign it as Endangered Species is too controversial of an issue for him to get involved with. All the other Dems had either signed it or said they would when they receive it.

The talk with Allard's staffer was very productive, but it is a bit of a moot point as he is retiring. Musgrave's office didn't have much to say as usual. Perlmutter seems like he wants to take the lead on some climate legislation in the next Congress. I had a very long discussion with someone from Lamborn's office and he supports Brown's Canyon wilderness as long as accessibility to water claims, etc. are addressed. His office felt like he hasn't received enough recognition for his environmental work.

Udall's office was very vague in the issues we discussed, but this may be due to his campaign as we've seen him drifting a bit to the center to appeal to a wider range of voters. Finally, it appears that Rocky Mountain Natl. Park is not a done deal as I had though it was. It seems there are still negotiations going on, but I couldn't find out exactly what they are. The national office also wants to work more with the local Colorado groups on wilderness through their America's Wild Legacy Campaign. I'm in touch with [national Sierra Club staff person] Clayton Daughenbaugh about how to go about this. I don't know if this needs to be at the Chapter level or if IPG can contribute anything.....”.

APPENDIX - WEST TSA “CONSENSUS DOCUMENT” AND RESPONSES
[Comments in italics]

Open Space Forum Potential Consensus Statements

Introduction
A small group of committed people have recently started meeting to breach the political divide on open space issues. Let us say at the outset that we are committed to both immediate environmental stewardship and stewardship for future generations of our public open space lands. We are also committed to moving forward constructively on open space and recreational issues through good will, understanding, cooperation and education. Our current focus is on constructively helping the City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) Department implement its Visitor Master Plan in the West Trail Study Area.

We believe we need to engage one another with courtesy and respect. That way we can move forward in a more collegial fashion, exploring the issues we can agree on, educating one another on our priorities, and focusing the discussion on legitimate differences where we may need to agree to disagree. Below is a list of several statements on which the undersigned groups have reached consensus.

In General
1. When necessary or appropriate, realign or relocate trails to reduce habitat fragmentation, increase the quality of the recreation experience, and ensure the sustainability of the land for future generations.
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Kirk: Seems non-controverial
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2. The establishment of new trails, realignment of existing trails, and elimination of unsustainable social trails should be based on sound management policies with the mutually supportive goals of reducing impacts on the environment and providing a high quality recreational experience.
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Kirk: Mostly non-controversial, but the suggestion that reducing impacts on the environment and providing a high quality recreational experience are “mutually supportive” goals is not always correct. They may, in fact be conflicting goals in some instances.
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3. Apply more OSMP resources to the maintenance of our existing and planned trail network. Consider hiring a permanent trail crew to repair small problems as they occur and to prevent degradation of the resource.
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Kirk: I agree that there seems to be a community consensus for more money spent on open space maintenance (in all its aspects) and less on acquisition, but no consensus on what that means quantitatively for trail maintenance. Nevertheless, this statement is noncontroversial.
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4. Develop educational signage that encourages people to experience and enjoy nature while respecting sensitive resources. To the extent possible, use persuasive instead of coercive language and provide information in a way that reinforces a sense of wonder and generates a land ethic in adults as well as children. Provide enhanced and consistent enforcement of regulations as a secondary strategy.
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Kirk: Practically speaking, given the lack of enough enforcers, this seems like the correct approach.
Jim: Regulation signage needs to be simple and clear. As an example, current signage between "voice and sight" and "required leash" are too similar. I wouldn't distinguish between coercive and persuasive. Use simple and direct language that conveys the facts.
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5. Provide accurate, timely, and easily accessible information to make the TSA public involvement process more inclusive, collaborative, and efficient. Reduce the burden of public participation by not revisiting the same decision multiple times and consider using the services of a professional facilitator to improve the efficiency and inclusiveness of the public process.
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Kirk: Non-controversial in general, but final acceptance of any result depends on the attention to the majority users (not just activist groups) to the process. One can be too efficient.
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6. Provide adequate and safe parking for horse trailers. This is especially important for new and redesigned trail heads.
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Kirk: A limiting consideration here is that horse trailers take up a lot of parking space, and parking space in the West TSA tends to be limited by geography.
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7. It is important to maintain naturally functioning ecological systems for plant and animal life to thrive on our open space lands. Unlike humans who understand and live within geographical boundaries, plants and animals live and thrive across such boundary distinctions.
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Kirk: This is generally true, but its implications for management are unclear. Does it imply that we don’t have to worry very much about, say, protecting rare plant communities that may be totally enclosed within open space lands?
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Specifics
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Ray: Several of the items below are completely inappropriate at this time, undercutting the process that has been stated by OSMP for the last year and the positions PLAN Boulder County (PBC) has taken on that process.

OSMP indicated at the start of its planning for the West TSA that the order would be to
1) Establish and document the resources: natural, historic, and recreational
2) Work through the priorities, conflicts, and constraints with full public participation
3) Plan what should be done on the basis of the first two steps, working through the contradictory demands and constraints
The first public meeting on the TSA was held on October 1, at which OSMP explained to the large group of attendees exactly how that process would work. The department has stated that it will produce drafts at each stage for public comment and as preparation for public meetings to follow.

Whether OSMP can manage to stick to this plan remains to be seen, but it is specifically designed to avoid getting into all the fights about specific trail use, routing, etc., before overall priorities are settled. The major recreation groups (such as BMA) have expressed their support for this process as it was developed. PBC should support maintaining that process and should oppose attempts to jump directly to the last phase.

I think that ultimately, there are a number of items on this wish list that PBC can support, but it is a mishmash of major goals, of specifics, which shouldn’t be addressed yet, and of special pleading. As such, if adopted, it is likely to increase conflict, rather than reducing it.

For example, I’m sure we would support the bike trail (#11 below) to connect to Walker Ranch, but this isn’t the place to do so. Similarly, there is no reason to think we would end up objecting to #12 below, depending on interpretation, but this is not the time to add it. #13 is specifically intended to subvert the process. OSMP needs to look at all the resources and conflicting demands before committing in advance to no changes in existing dog access and voice-and-sight rules (except in Fern and Shadow Canyons, which are called out as possibly needing changes). We should not be stating before initial evaluation that multi-use, bike-accessible trails can be provided in the TSA (#14). Obviously this is going to be a major demand. Making the decisions on the basis of resource analysis and participation by all the community is what the TSA process is for.

Finally, putting this laundry list in the same document as the vanilla list of generalities in the first section is unwise. It is a recipe for special pleading and for opportunities to subvert the process.
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8. Explore the possibility of designating Chapman Drive as an official trail.
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Kirk: Sounds like a useful goal, but it would, of course, require the purchase of an easement through private land from a willing seller(s).
Jim: Chapman drive would connect Boulder Canyon with upper Flagstaff Road. Upper Flagstaff road would still be needed to for bikes to get to Walker ranch. Upper Flagstaff road is not that busy so it is perfectly usable by bikes, as it has been for decades. The road shoulder could be improved with a climbing lane for bikes.
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9. Keep the Old Mesa Trail that connects into Eldorado Springs open. It is the only way to connect the popular Chattaqua area with Eldorado Canyon State Park, Walker Ranch, and areas beyond.
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Kirk: I’m not sure what is meant by this trail, or the reasons why it is not a system trail now.
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10. Construct no new trails in the HCA west of South Boulder and Bear peaks – this area provides a refuge for black bears, mountain lions, and other large mammals (with the exception of realigning or reconstructing the Eldorado Canyon Trail)
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Kirk: Realigning the Eldorado Canyon Trail may be technically difficult.
Jim: The exception for Eldorado Canyon trail is obviously only a mountain bike concern as the current trail is fine for hikers. I generally agree with the "no new trail" premise and I disagree with the targeted exception for mountain bikes. OSMP staff needs some flexibility with
trails, however.
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11. Develop an environmentally sustainable, multiple-use, bike accessible trail connecting Boulder to Walker Ranch. At the moment, we believe the Eldorado Canyon Trail offers the best opportunity for this connection and we would like to see thorough and timely study of route alternatives.
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See comments above.
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12. Preserve at least one designated trail or social trail to each crag or bouldering area identified in conjunction with the Flatirons Climbing Council. Do not revisit the recent decisions made about climbing areas west of the ridgeline.
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Kirk: I’m not sure what the ramifications of this are.
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13. Maintain current dog access and voice and sight privileges in this TSA. Be especially conscientious that an on leash requirement on some of the steeper trails (e.g., Fern and Shadow Canyons) creates a safety hazard and effectively precludes recreating with dogs.
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Jim: The dog regulations in West TSA need to become more restrictive for HCA environmental reasons and to solve user conflict problems. Voice and sight control does not work, especially in these areas. Specifically:
1) Allowing dogs is in conflict with minimizing environmental impacts in HCA areas.
2) There are very few dog free experiences in the OSMP system and these are not enforced.
3) Dog free trails need to be enforceable by on-the-ground enforcement personnel. For practical reasons, this means they need to be in close proximity to a trailhead.
4) There needs to be dog free trailheads where people can go without being confronted with dogs at the trailhead. The trails leading from these dog free trailheads need to be dog free as well.
5) Of the three major point destinations: Green Mountain, Bear Peak, and South Boulder Peak, all of them currently allow dogs to roam off leash. Some, if not all, need to become dog free. Congestion at these destinations is similar to congestion at trailhead parking lots.
6) One of the "key planning considerations" in the memo titled: "Overview of the West Trail Study Area Planning Process" states: “No Dog Trail Opportunities. With the goal of shifting the balance of dog and no dog opportunities, new no dog trail opportunities will be considered
in the West TSA, with possible application to existing trails and new trails.” The assertion of "no change in dog regulations" is in conflict with the stated goal of the planning process.

The same document also states: “Single Activity Trails. In general, OSMP does not support building and maintaining trails for single modes of visitor travel (e.g., pedestrian only, biking only, or horseback riding only trails). In rare circumstances, trails that accommodate only a single mode of travel may be considered if that is the best solution to avoid or minimize unacceptable resource impacts or visitor conflict.”
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14. Consider designating and/or rerouting high quality social trails and closing redundant social trails to make them environmentally sustainable, to minimize habitat fragmentation, and to provide a high quality recreation experience (e.g. the social trail network between McClintock Trail and Enchanted Mesa and in the Shanahan area).
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Kirk: Might be a good idea, but we need to understand specifics and impacts of present social trails.
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15. Provide some additional multi-use bike accessible trails in the West TSA that, in conjunction with trails in the Marshall Mesa and Doudy Draw areas, provide a destination for mountain bikers that they can access without the use of a car.
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Kirk: Beyond the Chapman Trail and possibly the Eldorado Trail rebuild, I can’t see what opportunities exist without unacceptable impacts.
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16. In evaluating the West TSA, the first step should be to gather all existing data – on topography, designated and undesignated trails, trail usage statistics, soil types and soil stability, geologic bedrock, wildlife or plant habitat sustainability needs, streams and riparian corridors, ecotones, nesting areas, cultural resources, and other areas of special concern – preferably as GIS map overlays. Each overlay should be coupled with pertinent topical write-ups, staff studies, published journal articles, and other available scientific and research data.
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Kirk: Good in principle, and is part of the planning process that Ray mentions above.
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17. As existing and new trail construction proceeds, standards for monitoring and remediating impacts should be clearly defined and applied. These standards should be applied to existing trails as well as new trails or reroutes.
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Kirk: Seems non-controversial.
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POLL - Please send me your comments (email preferred) on the issue of what general priority recreational use and access should have in the West TSA, relative to environmental protection, to the extent that they may conflict. Thanks.

Kirk Cunningham, Conservation Chair
303-939-8519
KMCunnin@juno.com