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Mancos trails project in the works

<span class="Drop cap"> </span><span class="Drop cap">Forest Service awaits response for Chicken Creek, Owen Basin</span>

About 13 miles of trails may be coming to the Mancos area, pending approval by the state.

The U.S. Forest Service trails project would include about 12 miles of non-motorized trails in the Chicken Creek area, and 1.1 miles of newly designated motorized trail in the Owens Basin area. If their environmental assessment is approved by the State Historic Preservation Office, the expanded trail system will meet an increasing need in the area, said Tom Rice, recreation specialist with the San Juan National Forest Dolores Ranger District.

“Mancos continues to grow, and there are opportunities that many of the forest users in that neck of the woods are looking for,” Rice said. “We felt as though we could address the needs of both the motorized and the non-motorized community.”

The project was initiated when the Mancos Trails Group and San Juan Trail Riders approached the Forest Service with requests for trails.

“We worked with them to identify opportunities,” Rice said. “So that’s what kicked this process into gear.”

The non-motorized portion includes just under 10 miles of trail construction and redesignates about 2.3 miles of existing trail, according to the assessment. The Stump Lake Trail would involve the construction of about 2.8 miles of single-track trail in the center of the project area, while the 7-mile Outer Loop Trail would be above Lost Canyon and be the project boundary.

The Outer Loop Trail would follow the canyon rim and incorporate unauthorized trail segments and new trails.

The project also adds the Lower and Upper Bauer Routes to the system. The 2.3 miles of trail have been used by the Chicken Creek ski operation.

“Adding these trail segments to the trail system would authorize it for year-round use and provide additional trail mileage/opportunity in an area that is already heavily utilized,” the assessment states.

On the motorized side, the project adds motorcycle designation to 1.1 miles of existing non-motorized trail, so as to provide connections between other existing motorized trails.

The Deer Lick Trail is about 0.9 miles of trail connecting NFSR 566 to the Box Canyon Spur Trail, tracing an abandoned route, while the Owens Basin Connector is an existing non-motorized 0.23 mile-trail connecting the Golconda ATV trail to the West Mancos Trail.

“The connector is currently non-motorized but was intended to be designated as a motorized route under Mancos-Cortez Travel management Plan (2008) decision; however this did not occur,” the asessment states.

Rice said the Deer Lick Trail will require trail construction work, but the Owens Basin connector is “on the ground.”

“So that really won’t require much in terms of dirt work other than maybe moving some boulders around and ensuring that it maintains that single-track nature,” he said.

The Forest Service published the Environmental Assessment in January, with a conclusion of no significant impact. Archaeological resources were found on the Chicken Creek trails portion, and the agency is required to consult with the State Historic Preservation Office for such projects.

“We did have some historic logging sites, sawmill sites, and there’s a lot of them on the Forest as you can imagine,” Rice said. As a way to mitigate the project’s impacts on the archaeology, they agreed to realign some of the trails.

After Historic Preservation comes back with a response, the Forest Service can then move forward with a final decision. But at a minimum, Rice said that is likely at least 30 days out.