Wednesday marks the start of autumn, and time to take advantage of local trails is running out as quickly as the changing aspens are painting the box canyon gold.
The Telluride Mountain Club, whose mission is to preserve public access for non-mechanized recreation, has a long-range outlook for these trails. The club released a survey Tuesday that aims to discern what local residents and visitors want out of trails.
“We want this survey to help direct our efforts in the future,” TMC President Tor Anderson said. “We feel the survey is necessary because our trails group has tons of great ideas, but is that what the community wants? It’s our way of trying to gauge what this community, and what its visitors, would like to see.”
The club has several issues on which it hopes to find a public consensus, including multi-use trails that allow bikers, hikers and other users, signage for existing trails and a long-range plan to make local trails into more of a system and less of a loose conglomeration of individual paths.
“The survey is intended to reach as many individuals as possible in order to get a comprehensive overview of the current trails system and if we should consider improvement and new trails in the future,” Joe Shults, who leads TMC’s trails group, said in a statement. “We need data from the community and visitors to see what lies ahead.”
Anderson said that Telluride, unlike some of its neighbors (he offered the examples of Ouray, Durango and Aspen), has never made much of an effort to integrate all of its trails into a comprehensive system. Instead, each trail exists more or less on its own.
According to Anderson, many visitors to Telluride only take advantage of three trails: Bear Creek, Jud Wiebe and the River Trail. With better signage and a more comprehensive trails system, he said, crowds could be dispersed across many other trails and visitors could find different trails.
“Ouray is an excellent example of exactly what we’re talking about here. They’ve taken their separate mining trails and made them into a system,” Anderson said. “It’s a different community, but I think we could learn a lot from that kind of system.”
But, as Anderson emphasized, TMC is not pushing a particular vision for trails in Telluride but gathering information on the desires of trail-users.
The survey includes 22 questions. Among them: What trails do you use most frequently? From your perspective, what level of user conflict occurs on our regional trail system? Is there easily accessible information for potential trails users about the local trail network?
Shults added that people have come to expect more from their trails in the last 15 or 20 years, and those higher expectations extend beyond local residents to festival attendees who no longer want to spend their entire visit to Telluride drinking beer and listening to music.
“Fifteen or 20 years ago, they made trails to get from point A to point B. You would build a trailhead then pick out a lake to have the trail lead to,” Shults said. “Now a lot of the trails are purpose-built. The experience is being on the trail. It’s about having fun on the trail, not just getting from somewhere to somewhere else.”