open space

Town program director Lance McDonald shared a map of Valley Floor trails that Telluride Open Space Commission members recently walked, and discussed management during Monday’s virtual meeting. (Screenshot by Justin Criado/Telluride Daily Planet)

Management of the Valley Floor and Lower Bear Creek Preserve were the main topic of discussion during Monday’s virtual Telluride Open Space Commission, as commission members have recently conducted site walks within both areas in contemplating social trails and usage.

A revegetation effort, including de-emphasizing several trails that lead to and from the popular gorge area, has been the focus in the Lower Bear Creek Preserve area this summer. Town program director Lance McDonald said everything is going well so far.

“What I have to update the group is that most of our closures are working, except for the one that when you immediately cross the stream over the two-log bridge, the first trail that heads there keeps getting taken down. They’re basically taking it down from the other side. We can certainly get that all reinforced. … People are using the detour trail a lot. … Everything on the west side seems to be holding up really well,” he said.

Hikes to the gorge area spread online through social media and blogs that included directions and the exact location. The commission, as part of its management plan, also wanted to de-emphasize such online mentions.

McDonald read a text from town public information officer David Nepsky, who explained the team has been making progress in that regard as well.

“‘I’m working with legal on having the drone videos taken down off YouTube, and (a Denver blog) has put a disclaimer on their post regarding the vegetation project,’” McDonald shared. “We’re still trying to track down the droners, but it seems to have been de-emphasized.”

Nepsky previously shared information about the area’s online presence, including that it’s been mentioned on 38 websites since 2011, as well as having 2,000-plus references on Instagram and Facebook (there are two dedicated Facebook pages that are linked to Google Maps). The area has been geotagged at least 360 times on social media.

McDonald added that similar efforts will most likely have to be revisited next year in gauging usage in the area.

A new map was also recently put up at the Bear Creek kiosk, which was another component the commission previously discussed, though it’s not necessarily permanent.

“This is a work in progress. I’m really happy that we’re moving along here,” commission member Nancy Craft said.

The commission conducted an Aug. 31 site walk of the Valley Floor, particularly the east end closest to town.

“We had a good site walk. No decisions were made at the site walk. It was just a discussion about potential ideas. But this is important because going into next year this can identify what we pursue or what projects we don’t pursue on this portion of the Valley Floor,” McDonald said.

The idea of building a bridge from the current trail along the river over to the railroad grade area was considered, but a majority of the commission members agreed that wasn’t the best option.

“We talked about the north being an environmentally sensitive area and to discourage people from heading off in that direction,” commission member Susie St. Onge explained when commission chair Angela Dye, who could not attend the site walk, asked why members felt the bridge wasn’t necessary.

Telluride Mayor Pro Tem Todd Brown added that a bridge and increased usage in that area would disrupt the wetlands ecosystem.

“We get a lot of wildlife in there, so we thought it would be less attractive to heavy usage if there’s not a bridge there,” he said.

Trail users were also discussed during the site walk, including delineating which trails are best for each one.

“One of the things we talked about while we were out there is that the red dotted line, the old railroad grade, would likely be more used by bicyclists, and the blue river trail would be more likely used by pedestrians,” Brown explained. “No dogs on the red one; dogs allowed on the blue one and signage to that effect. Trying to separate some of that high-speed-low-speed traffic by encouraging bicyclists to use the railroad grade and pedestrians to use the old river trail.”