Letter: Forest Service proposes closing roads to recreation

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I’m guessing that not many noticed a public announcement placed in the Coloradoan toward the end of March, notifying the public of the Forest Service intent on closing down 25 miles worth of roads located on the middle Elkhorn just southwest of Red Feather Lakes, and proposing building about a half mile worth of new road to benefit Christmas tree sales.

I grew up in the area being discussed and roamed all over the roads in the proposal as well as other roads that have been previously closed, or temporarily closed for the last eight years, only to discover that new maps that are coming out don’t even show the roads anymore. I have had two meetings with the district ranger Kevin Acthley and was informed of the process in which these decisions are made. It seems that the local ranger in charge of that district makes recommendations based on her opinion, and based off of that, they go through a process where they score the roads in question, and decide the fate of roads that have been open for generations.

The process is then posted in the local paper and meetings are posted as well. However, in today’s world, fewer people are reading the paper and are relying on social media for their news and information. Over the last fifteen years I have noticed road after road being closed to the general public and we’ve sat by and not put up much of a fight. I guess it’s easier if you only take small portions at a time so that it goes unnoticed?

I appreciate that we need to have roadless areas, and not everybody respects the roads that have been there for generations. But we have thousands of acres available that are just that — roadless — and will stay that way forever. The roads in question are not maintained by the Forest Service, at least not to the extent where it’s draining the coffers. They have also had participation from 4-wheel drive clubs that will sponsor a road and raise money for maintenance in the event of repairs being needed for drainage issues, so why not consider that as an option?

We have folks that are disabled or aging that would love to get back out in the mountains, or utilize the areas for hunting, and without these side roads, that just won’t get to be an option. The solutions that are left will be to try and funnel all those wanting to recreate to certain areas where it’s still allowed. Just imagine the impact that will create! I’m guessing you can bet where the next road closure will be.

Is it just me, or are they closing seasonal roads earlier and leaving them closed longer? I know Deadman and Longdraw are just two examples, and it almost seems if you don’t catch it on the right weekend, you miss your chance of getting into those areas. I would like to impress upon them that these roads used to be open for a much longer period, and to please reconsider how they are managing the public lands that we have paid for, and have asked that they manage for us. There is also a Facebook page dedicated to getting the word out, please visit Citizens for Outdoor Recreations and Trails for more information and leave a comment.

Jack Brinkhoff