February 2012 Update:
Senator Mark Udall has announced his intention to submit a plan that closely aligns the Hidden Gems proposal, in the form of the legislation currently in committee in the US House of Representatives and being led by Congressman Jared Polis, now known as the Summit-Eagle Wilderness Protection Act.
We are working with IMBA to continue our efforts to protect certain areas for future corridors open to mountain biking, and will be meeting with Senator Udall’s staff this spring.
The SFTS Board will continue to update members on our progress in these meetings. If you would like to stay updated with the very latest, and have not already done so, head over to Facebook and “Like” us!
For nearly three years, The Summit Fat Tire Society has worked tirelessly to ensure sustained access to several trails throughout the region that were threatened to be closed with the Hidden Gems Wilderness proposal. A subcommittee was formed that included stakeholders as well as advocates for the Wilderness proposal, and for two years they met, debated, took rides, visited sites, looked over maps and trails and found common ground and established some lines in the sand where they couldn’t. Wilderness Act lands, established by Congress under an act written in 1964, doesn’t include mountain bikes as acceptable use within the boundaries.
Unfortunately, several trails were proposed to be included in the Gems proposal, and thankfully the advocates for the proposal were willing to work with us to help determine where both parties could compromise.
The feather in our cap is the agreement by Representative Jared Polis to include companion designations in his proposed language, which will likely be submitted to US Congress soon. We believe companion designations offer the opportunity to protect lands around Wilderness but also create areas where bikes are allowed. These types of designations have proven to work in areas like James Peak in Grand County, Colorado.
This was no easy task. Several local elected officials balked at the idea that an organization would even question Wilderness designation and asked us to stand down. Many stakeholders had incorrect maps and information about trail alignments. And the Forest Service, still holding a long-delayed Travel Management Plan, would have to abide by the designation and boundaries, leaving us in the middle. But we demonstrated that companion designations actually offered a chance to protect MORE, not less, and it would be a win-win for the community (and, ahem, the voters!). Through considerate negotiation and persistence, it was the Fat Tire Society who led the charge with help from IMBA to really get this off the ground.
We still work to fine tune many alignments and have found some areas where we don’t see eye-to-eye on the boundaries. We continue to work with stakeholders and Rep. Polis’ office to foster continued dialogue on these issues, and look forward to working with the new designation. Where needed, we will work hard to continue to push for more protection and access to mountain biking. Until then, we’re proud of the ultimate agreement to bring companion designation to fruition, which is really the definition of progress for any group.
This was one of those marathon events that reinforces why an organization like Summit Fat Tire Society is needed, even though there are other organizations on the ground working in Summit County. And it’s why if you’re not a member, your support will help us continue this effort. Click here to join.