For the past few months, Summit County’s Open Space and Trails Department has been collecting feedback from the public as it drafts its new master plan. On Thursday, Feb. 10, the department held a virtual open house to hear directly from community members about what they wanted to see from the department in the next 10 years.
The meeting kicked off with an introduction from Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence, who noted that up until this point, the county’s goal for its open space had been to acquire more land. Now, with more than 100 trailheads, 38 miles of the recpath, 100 miles of natural surface trails and 50 miles of dirt road, Lawrence said the county’s focus is likely going to transition.
According to a poll conducted during the event, 89% of the 48 attendees who responded were full-time residents and about 5% were part-time residents. A few visitors also tuned in. These attendees listened to a brief presentation about the plan and the public outreach conducted so far.
Katherine King, Summit County Open Space & Trails director, presented the vision of the plan, which is to conserve open space resources and ecosystem function, connect with nature and quality outdoor experiences, and to collaborate with other partners to address countywide natural resource and recreation challenges and opportunities.
King and her team broke down each of these focuses and ran a series of polls to see how much attendees resonated with the action items. As they went along, community members were encouraged to write their thoughts and feedback in the Zoom chat.
A couple of attendees, such as Jonathan Knopf, president of Friends of the Lower Blue River and a neighbor to the property, and county resident Darrell Johnson, wrote that they’d like to see a greater emphasis on climate change and climate resiliency.
Others, such as county residents Kendra Fuller and Johnny Le Coq, said they’d like to see more collaboration with other organizations.
Once the presentation wrapped up, attendees got to choose a breakout room, each of which focused on a different basin. There, they had a chance to discuss the unique challenges of that basin and voice what they’d like to see happen there in the next decade.
Attendee Ashley Garrison joined the Upper Blue Basin breakout room and wondered about additional signage at various trailheads.
“Is there interest or need, do you think, to provide some signage or messaging around the difference between county-owned open space, U.S. Forest Service, jointly owned (land) between the town of Breck and county,” Garrison asked. “Is there a conversation around that and/or is there value in that?”
Lawrence joined this breakout room and responded that she thinks this could be a great way to show how taxpayer dollars are spent.
In the Lower Blue Basin breakout, county resident John Hillman said there was a plot of land accessible by the Acorn Creek Trailhead where hunting often occurs and that the land’s proximity to private land and residential areas frequently causes issues.
“In the 25 years that I’ve lived in the area, there’ve been multiple times when I’ve been called by a game warden or a specific hunter saying, ‘We’ve shot an animal. It’s run on the private property. We know that we can’t go there, but this poor animal is there suffering, and we need permission to finish it off,’” Hillman said. “That’s usually what we do is grant the permission, but it’s wrong to have (the hunting) there.”
Others in the Snake River Basin and Ten Mile Basin breakout rooms, such as Frisco resident Kevin Kuciapinski, brought up the use of e-bikes.
“There’s certainly an issue coming with the electric bikes,” Kuciapinski said. “I’ve got nothing against electric bikes, but some of the power levels and speeds I’ve seen of the new ones — there is a point that an electric bike becomes a motor vehicle.”
Kuciapinski said he was in favor of multiuse trails but that the master plan should take a harder look at what trails should and should not be used for.
For those still interested in providing input, two surveys will be live through Feb. 27. To participate, and to learn more about the plan, visit SummitCountyCo.gov/105/open-space-trails.