The U.S. Forest service responsible for managing the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison public lands has announced a decision to revise the Forest Service Strategic Plan, a document drafted in 1983.
The planned revision was discussed at Wednesday’s regular San Miguel County Commission meeting.
The last effort to revise the strategic document was completed in 2006.
U.S. Forest Supervisor Scott Armentrout said the first phase of the revision will involve making assessments. “(These are) really to learn what went well, what is not going so well and what are some new things we need to think about,” Armentrout said.
Topics to be covered include examining which U.S. Forest areas are suitable as wilderness and which are considered recreation areas, as well as looking at the “spectrum of resources” available for forest vegetation management, Armentrout said.
This first phase of the revision is expected to be complete by the end of 2017.
After the assessment is completed, Armentrout said, the next step will be to determine the “need for change.” In other words, this will involve addressing new challenges or uses that have arisen in national forests since 1983, and revising the plan to reflect those additions.
“We have seen pretty significant changes in our landscapes not only with our vegetation and the bark battle epidemics, but we’ve also seen a difference in the types of uses — like more people wanting to be in the forest,” he said. “Mountain bikes and ATVs weren’t a thing in 1983.”
“As we work on the need for change, how do we deal with that?” he asked. “That will be a big piece of the dialogue with the public, and internally.”
Also at the meeting, the commissioners moved to approve a San Miguel County Transportation Management Plan that dictates the proper and prohibited uses for the county’s public parking lot on Lawson Hill.
The county was recently awarded $1.5 million by the Colorado Department of Transportation to build a public Park-n-Ride facility on the site.
The funds will go toward improving the parking area, including paving the lot, building a sheltered waiting area for passengers, landscaping and creating an area for regional transit services to stop for connections.
Russell Engineering has been contracted to design the lot.
The lot is restricted by a special warranty deed from 2004 stating that it must be used for public parking or public transit, and cannot be used for commercial purposes.
The board voted to allow temporary commercial uses, including employee parking or temporary staging for businesses as long as it didn’t interfere with the public’s use of the lot. Any language related to leasing spaces to businesses was stricken from the plan.
Overnight parking was also approved for those looking to park their cars and take public transportation to other parts of the region. Overnight camping remains banned.
In other county improvement news, Jennifer Dinsmore, the administrative officer and part-time emergency coordinator for the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office, offered an update on the expansion of the San Miguel County jail.
The expansion, which would include a detox facility and multi-purpose room for training and emergency response management, is slated to begin in October, according to Dinsmore.
Dinsmore said the project is expected to take 210 days, with an anticipated end date of May 1, 2018.
She acknowledged, “It is a very aggressive timeline.”
Commissioner Kris Holstrom asked how the new design would be affected by a bill recently passed by the State of Colorado that bans the use of jails for mental health holds.
Dinsmore replied that the designs will not be affected — mental health holds will take place in administrative areas of the office, not in the county jail portion of the building.
“The arresting agencies will have to keep them in their offices until they are sober,” she said of those persons who may be on hold, adding that most mental health holds also need a space to detox.
She elaborated: “In our office, that means putting them in the interview room.”