Friday, February 13, 2009

New south valley trails envisioned

Local trail advocates will make their case before county officials on Feb. 17

Express Staff Writer

In this photo taken last summer, U.S. Bureau of Land Management Outdoor Recreation Planner John Kurtz, who works out of the agency’s Shoshone office, surveys a section of Hatty Gulch west of Hailey that is being considered for new trail construction. Photo by

It may still be too early to think about warm summer trails, but local single-track advocates aren't letting that slow them down.

During next week's Blaine County Commission meeting in Hailey, Chris Leman of Big Wood Backcountry Trails and U.S. Bureau of Land Management Outdoor Recreation Planner John Kurtz will present a plan to construct four trails spanning nearly 40 miles.

The discussion will take place Tuesday, Feb. 17, at 10 a.m. in the upstairs meeting room of the Old Blaine County Courthouse. Public comment will be taken.

The trails are proposed for four sites in the south Wood River Valley, an area with fewer trail opportunities than Sawtooth National Forest lands to the north near Ketchum and Sun Valley.

The plan would establish 14.7 miles of trail traversing drainages north of Hatty Gulch from Rock Creek Road at Rocky Butte to Croy Creek Road at Richardson Summit, and 9.7 miles connecting the BLM's Croy trail network to trails on Forest Service-managed lands in the Deer Creek drainage. It would also establish 4.8 miles of trail traversing the toe of the slope along the south and north sides of Slaughterhouse Canyon northeast of Bellevue.

Finally, the plan would establish 10 miles of trail linking Lee's Gulch to Townsend Gulch, circling Rattler Butte, and connecting Townsend Gulch to existing roads in the Rock Creek drainage. Except for in Slaughterhouse Canyon, where the trails would be designated as non-motorized use only, motorized use would be allowed on the new trails.

The plan that Leman and Kurtz will present to the County Commission would supplement the BLM travel plan that county officials developed to manage motorized and non-motorized recreation on federal lands in the southern Wood River Valley. The travel plan was developed as part of an assistance agreement the county signed several years ago with the BLM.

Last February, county commissioners approved the plan for managing about 160,000 acres of BLM land on both sides of the valley. The travel plan, which still must gain BLM approval before it can be implemented, envisions managing the large area as 14 recreation management zones, two related to winter use and 12 to summer use. During the winter, the plan would periodically close off certain areas to public use to protect wintering wildlife.

Kurtz said the BLM may begin evaluating the plan as soon as this spring. He said the process will take about a year.

"We're kind of waiting in line behind the Craters of the Moon travel management plan," he said. "They're making good progress."

During the summer, the travel plan prioritizes trail projects for specific recreational uses like mountain biking, horseback riding and motorbiking in each of the 12 summer recreation zones, though the majority of the areas would be open to all uses.

If the county commissioners approve the new trails plan, they will request that the BLM amend the travel plan they approved early last year.

"Residents have been requesting this kind of trail system in the south valley for years," said Commissioner Tom Bowman.

Jason Kauffman:

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