Responding to change

Mary Ryan, left, and Tina O’Connor put away their Nordic skis Friday afternoon after spending time on the Tie City trails.

The U.S. Forest Service is looking for public comment on a draft document outlining management recommendations for recreation sites across the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests and Thunder Basin National Grassland.

During the past year, the Forest Service has analyzed developed recreation sites on the forests to create a document to guide management priorities in coming years.

The Forest Service sought public comment a year ago at the outset of the project and is now looking for feedback at the current step in the process.

The aim of the analysis is to maintain a sustainable recreation program that meets current recreation demands and priorities, said spokesman Aaron Voos. For example, recreation sites that were popular years ago might not be so today, and vice versa.

“We would be foolish to assume everything will stay the same and the way we managed this site 20 years ago is fine moving forward,” Voos said.

The Tie City Trailhead is one example of site that’s growing in year-round popularity. The proposal calls for expanding the parking lot and entrance area for safety reasons.

“Usage just continues to grow and grow and grow up there,” Voos said.

The document also prioritizes recreation sites as a guide to how to allocate spending.

“We currently have a lot of deferred maintenance, just due to the budget,” Voos said. “So, we’re trying to address some of that.”

A variety of criteria were considered in giving each site a score, such as a site’s desirability, investment needs, operational costs and environmental impact.

“That’s used to give priority to certain areas, and to basically rank them within our system as far as where we put our resources,” Voos said.

Across the forest, 224 sites — boat docks, campgrounds, interpretive sites, picnic areas, trailheads and visitor centers — were analyzed. Thirteen are proposed for decommissioning, 44 proposed for a fee change and 59 considered for a change of season.

Sixty-three sites received no proposed changes.

In the Snowy Range, Mirror Lake, a picnic and fishing site near the summit of the Snowy Range Scenic Byway, received one of the highest scores in the report. The proposal calls for making a series of repairs and putting the site on the fee system.

The proposal calls for shortening the operating season for the nearby Medicine Bow Peak Trailhead. Voos said that kind of change is one way to be more efficient.

“It’s just shortening up that time frame to utilize resources when they are most needed and most necessary, and when there’s the highest public use,” he said.

Several campgrounds are proposed for decommissioning, including Pole Creek, Wallis and Aspen.

Some of those proposed for decommissioning, such as Miller Lake Campground, have been closed for some time already, and dispersed camping will be allowed once facilities are removed.

“The recommendation is to go ahead and pull the amenities but then open it up for dispersed camping,” Voos said of Miller Lake Campground. “The loop will still be there right next to the lake.”

None of the proposed changes are current projects, as each would still have to go through its own environmental analysis.

Voos said the Forest Service is hoping to receive site-specific comments.

“The biggest one is we want to know if the recommendations that we’re making are in line with what the public wants and needs,” he said.

A link to all the recommendations is at Comments can be submitted at the site and should be made by Feb. 28.

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