Putting the brakes on

Back in September, we reported about a proposed new mountain bike park north of Pagosa Springs within the San Juan National Forest, in an area known as Jackson Mountain. At the time, a Pagosa Springs-based mountain biking advocacy group, DUST2, was pushing for an estimated 45 miles of trails spanning about 4,500 acres.

The problem, according to critics of the proposed project, was that the new mountain bike park would run through critical wildlife habitat, bringing hundreds of recreationists to one of the last refuges in the area for big game such as elk and deer.

On top of that, mountain bikers had been creating illegal, unauthorized trails on Jackson Mountain for decades, according to Forest Service officials. Many of the trails in the proposed mountain bike park would incorporate those rogue trails, leading opponents of the project to fear the Forest Service would be rewarding bad behavior if the park were approved.

Supporters, for their part, say there is a lack of mountain biking trails in the Pagosa Springs area, and Jackson Mountain would fill this need. Also, proponents argued, if authorized, the illegal trails could be better maintained and directed away from wildlife areas. The project was backed by the International Mountain Biking Association.

Over the past few months, the Forest Service has been moving through its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process, which requires the agency to analyze any significant environmental, social and economic impacts of a proposed project (as well as include opportunity for public comment).

Last Friday, the Forest Service announced it would not move forward with the mountain bike park, as well as other recreational components of the proposal, including the expansion of the Turkey Creek trailhead, additional parking areas, trailheads and toilets.

“Concerns over the probable impacts of a trail system on an important big game migration corridor have led me to conclude that we would be in error in proceeding with the analysis of the trail proposal as currently envisioned,” District Ranger Josh Peck said in a press release.

(The Forest Service also decided not to move forward with another proposal for a gravel pit, which was proposed by Archuleta County.)

If you want the full rundown on the situation at Jackson Mountain, read our previous coverage by visiting our website at https://bit.ly/3oNopxK or checking out the archived Sept. 29, 2022, e-edition at https://bit.ly/421VKDs.

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