Friday, February 1, 2008

Wheelchair-accessible trail planned north of Ketchum

Forest Service officials seeking comments


By JASON KAUFFMAN
Express Staff Writer

A portion of the scenic Murdock Creek trail northwest of Ketchum could become accessible to wheelchairs under a plan put forth by officials with the Sawtooth National Recreation Area.

Under the plan, SNRA officials are proposing to rebuild the first mile of the trail to make it wheelchair accessible. The trail is about a mile north of the SNRA headquarters off the North Fork Road.

Murdock Creek originates in the high Boulder Mountains before descending steeply to its confluence with the North Fork of the Big Wood River. Officials consider the trail's lower length ideally suitable for wheelchair access because of its gentle grade and aesthetic setting, a SNRA news release states.

The project would include the installation of two wheelchair-accessible trail bridges over Murdock Creek, one approximately 200 yards from the trailhead, and the other approximately one mile from the trailhead. The existing trail would be widened to 36 inches.

The rebuilt trail would also include 60-inch-long by 60-inch-wide passing spaces every 1,000 feet along the trail, or more often if conditions dictate. Some surface rock removal would also be required to eliminate obstacles, the news release states.

In a few locations, short reroutes may be necessary to achieve the desired trail grade and to access appropriate bridge sites. Existing creek fords would be eliminated and rehabilitated to restore streambank stability.

Every effort would be made to retain the primitive look and feel of the trail, the SNRA news release says.

Also on board with the project is local wheelchair user Erik Schultz, director of the Arthur B. Schultz Foundation, which is based in Ketchum. The group supports worldwide disabled recreation and mobility initiatives.

"The primitive-access upgrade of the first mile of the Murdock Creek trail will provide a world-class adaptive outdoor recreation experience while preserving the wilderness character of the area," Schultz said. "I can't wait to travel back there unassisted and camp out under the stars."

Prior to making any decisions regarding this proposal, the Forest Service will complete an analysis of the project area. To ensure that no issues important to the public are overlooked, it is important for the public to provide their thoughts on this project, officials say.

"We are very excited about the opportunity to provide a spectacular trail experience for wheelchair users literally in our backyard," SNRA Area Ranger Sara Baldwin said.

Maps and other information about the project can be obtained by calling Ed Cannady at the SNRA headquarters at 727-5000.

The Forest Service is asking that comments on the proposal be sent to SNRA headquarters by Feb. 21. If sent by mail, they should be addressed to 5 North Fork Canyon Rd., Ketchum, ID 83340, attn: Murdock Creek Project. Comments may also be made by phone by calling 727-5000, by fax to 727-5029 or electronically to ecannady@fs.fed.us.




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