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For the week of March 19 - 25, 2003

News

Fox Creek trailhead to be built this summer


By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

Following more than a year of environmental review, the U.S. Forest Service has approved plans to build a foot bridge across the Big Wood River and a trailhead to access the Fox Creek-area trail system, south of North Fork. It could be built late this summer or early this fall.

"The idea for a trailhead facility here at Fox Creek is not a new one," said Ketchum District Ranger Kurt Nelson. "Back in 1971, the Forest Service purchased the existing Forest Service access road easement in order to provide the public with access from State Highway 75 to the National Forest.

"This was done with the foresight of developing a trailhead when the need arose. Today, that need is very evident."

Nelson said existing public parking and access points to the popular 20-mile Fox Creek trail system have become insufficient.

"This has resulted in conflicts between trail users, resource damage, as well as trespassing onto adjacent private land," Nelson wrote in his decision.

The Fox Creek trail system comprises popular trails that include the Oregon, Chocolate and North Fork loops. The system provides recreation opportunities to more than 20,000 hikers, mountain bikers, runners and equestrians. The new trailhead will be about six miles north of Ketchum and about a half mile west of Highway 75.

The project will include construction of a 7,500-square-foot gravel parking area accommodating 15 to 20 vehicles and three to four vehicles with trailers. In response to concerns from neighbors, the Forest Service reduced the number of parking spaces from original proposals, but the plan leaves options open to add an additional nine to 10 spaces if they are needed.

The project will also include a 90-foot footbridge over the Big Wood River, and an unimproved access road will be widened and surfaced to mitigate water runoff. A culvert or asphalt water ford will also be installed at a low-lying portion of the road.

Finally, a vault toilet will be installed.

"This is one of the most popular trail systems that we have in the wood River Valley," Nelson said. "The Fox Creek system is important from the standpoint that it really helps to distribute use in this area. It also helps to relieve pressure from adjacent trailheads, such as the one in Chocolate Gulch, which is located in a subdivision."

While homeowners near the new trailhead location were skeptical about additional public use in their neighborhood, Blaine County commissioners, a local trail advocacy group and Chocolate Gulch homeowners all said the improved access makes sense.

Nelsonís decision under the National Environmental Policy Act of "no significant impact" for the project is subject to a 45-day appeal period.

 

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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.