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04.10.13 OSBT Trails 2012 Annual Report 2012 Annual Report Trail Construction & Maintenance City of Boulder Open Space & Mountain Parks Trails Program Overview The City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks has about 146 miles of designated hiking, mountain biking and equestrian trails throughout the system. Trails serve as a means for people to access and recreate on OSMP lands, and help direct people both towards areas of interest and away from some sensitive natural resources. As with all OSMP infrastructure, trails require constant maintenance. Each year, OSMP trail crews, Junior Rangers, AmeriCorps crews, volunteers, and jail crews all assist in the maintenance and construction of the trail system. This report will focus on efforts carried out by in-house trail crews (who are often supported by the other groups mentioned above). In 2012, OSMP had a Visitor Access Coordinator, three full-time trails staff members and 18 seasonal staff members. Seasonal staff was divided into four separate trail crews. This was a significant increase in crew size from the approximate eight to ten staff per year of previous field seasons. 2012 was the first full year of implementation of projects identified in the West Trail Study Area (TSA) Plan. The West TSA Plan outlines an aggressive plan for rerouting and repairing many of the trails in Boulder’s mountain backdrop. Many of the projects that were scheduled for 2012 were constructed and completed (Homestead, Towhee, Green Bear, Sunshine Canyon, Contact Corner) while others were postponed (South Boulder Creek West, West Sanitas/Wittemyer) in lieu of projects that were elevated in priority, mostly due to the Flagstaff Fire (Bear Peak West Ridge, Cragmoor – Fern Meadow). In the trail planning and design phases, trail, natural resources and cultural resources staffs work together to develop all final trail alignments. Project planning meetings and site visits with resource staff provide crucial information to assist trail designers with determining a trail layout that is of minimum impact to rare or sensitive plant species, wildlife, ecosystems and cultural resource sites. Homestead Trail Reroute Workplan: West TSA Implementation Plan. Driving factors/benefits: Improves trail sustainability and protects wildlife habitat by decreasing trail length in the riparian area. Trail improvements: 3,960 feet of trail reroute constructed. 2,300 feet of heavy trail maintenance. 3,600 feet of trail closed/restored. Homestead Trail construction – blasting/breaking a boulder Overview: From April through September of 2012, two OSMP trail crews rerouted two major sections of the Homestead Trail. The old trail ascended Page 1 of 7 2012 Annual Report Trail Construction & Maintenance City of Boulder Open Space & Mountain Parks at a steep, unsustainable grade and was consequently eroded, widened and braided. The new trail alignment meets sustainability standards in terms of grade, cross-slope and supporting structures. Significant distances of the old trail alignment in the Towhee riparian area have been closed and restored with the goal of improving riparian habitat. The portion of Homestead Trail that was not rerouted had heavy maintenance done to close trail braids, prevent further widening and address soil erosion. Towhee Trail Reroute Workplan: West TSA Implementation Plan. The lower Homestead Trail reroute Driving factors/benefits: Protects wildlife habitat by decreasing trail length in the riparian area. Improves trail sustainability. Trail improvements: 900 feet of trail reroute constructed. 1,850 feet of trail closed/restored. Overview: During the fall of 2012, two OSMP trail crews rerouted the Towhee Trail to a) protect wildlife habitat by pulling the trail away from the Towhee drainage riparian area, and b) improve trail sustainability. The trail now climbs up the lower portion of the drainage, then ascends north and uphill to connect with the Mesa Trail. The new route still allows for loop hikes via Homestead, Mesa and other area trails. Green Bear Trail Reroute Workplan: West TSA and previous trail project plans. Driving factors/benefits: Improve trail sustainability. Green Trail improvements: 2,530 feet of trail reroute constructed (the Bear other 5,910 feet of this reroute was completed in 2011). 5,250 switch- back, feet of trail closed/restored. before and after Overview: This was the second and final season of rerouting the entire Green Bear Trail. Two OSMP trail crews constructed the remaining portions of the reroute from April through July. Significant structures (retaining walls and steps) constructed of native stone were required to build the route across topographically-complex terrain. The project also provided the opportunity to rework the Green Bear/Bear Canyon/Bear Peak West Ridge trail junction by moving the far-west portion of Bear Canyon Trail farther away from Bear Creek to improve trail sustainability and protect riparian habitat. Page 2 of 7 2012 Annual Report Trail Construction & Maintenance City of Boulder Open Space & Mountain Parks Green Bear retaining wall: before, during and after construction Sunshine Canyon Trail Construction Workplan: West TSA Implementation Plan. Driving factors/benefits: Reroute existing social trails to provide a designated sustainable trail of moderate trail length and difficulty from the Centennial Trailhead. Future connection to a planned trail route on West Sanitas/Wittemyer. Trail improvements: 5,808 feet of trail reroute constructed. 3,200 feet of social trail closed/restored. Overview: Two OSMP trail crews constructed the Sunshine Canyon Trail during July through September. Prior to this trail, an undesignated social trail paralleled Sunshine Canyon Drive on OSMP property. The new designated trail is constructed to sustainable standards and allows for equestrian use. Portions of the old social trail were incorporated into the new route and upgraded to sustainable standards. The Sunshine Canyon Trail will serve as an access trail to the future West Sanitas/Wittemyer Trail (scheduled for construction in 2013-2014). Cragmoor – Fern Meadow Trail Construction Workplan: West TSA Implementation Plan. Prioritized after the Flagstaff Fire due to associated management decisions regarding the fire break constructed behind Devils Thumb neighborhood homes that border OSMP land. Driving factors/benefits: Designates a single trail for neighborhood access, and consolidates multiple undesignated trails. Provides access to Fern Meadow from the designated access point at Cragmoor Road. Trail improvements: 1,850 feet of trail reroute constructed. 2,000 feet of social trail closed/restored. Overview: Previously, a social trail existed on OSMP land immediately behind Devils Thumb neighborhood homes that bordered OSMP land. This social trail was modified via widening and lengthening into a fire break during the Flagstaff Fire in the summer of 2012. In order to close and restore the fire break, OSMP decided to prioritize construction of the Cragmoor – Fern Meadow Trail. One OSMP trail crew constructed this route during October through November. The fire break and area social trails were closed and restored. Page 3 of 7 2012 Annual Report Trail Construction & Maintenance City of Boulder Open Space & Mountain Parks Bear Peak West Ridge Trail Reconstruction Workplan: Due to the summer 2012 Flagstaff Fire. Post-fire trail erosion and rock staircase constructed to stabilize the trail Driving factors/benefits: Repair the trail and prepare it for future re- opening after the summer 2012 Flagstaff Fire. Trail improvements: 3,470 feet of trail reconstruction. Overview: Bear Peak West Ridge and other area trails (Fern Canyon and Shadow Canyon) that were in the Flagstaff Fire were closed until assessments of trail and resource conditions could be made and plans implemented for reopening these trails. (Fern Canyon was able to be reopened without trail repairs. Shadow Canyon is scheduled for trail repairs in spring-summer of 2013.) Seventy-five percent of the Bear Peak West Ridge Trail was within the fire area. Project goals were to prevent future trail damage due to post-fire soil erosion and sedimentation and prevent the trail from exacerbating fire-associated impacts to area natural resources. During September-October, two OSMP trail crews constructed rock check steps, staircases, water bars and retaining walls to support the trail. They also laid log check dams off trail to prevent soil erosion. The trail was reopened on November 12. Contact Corner Bouldering Area Volunteer Project Workplan: West TSA Implementation Plan. Driving factors/benefits: Consolidate a network of unsustainable trails. Improve conditions of main trails that lead from the Contact Corner parking area to bouldering and sight-seeing sites. Close and restore a spider web of numerous social trails. Trail improvements: 630 feet of trail reconstruction and heavy maintenance. 970 feet of trail closure and restoration. 570 feet of buck-and-rail fence constructed. Overview: With easy parking and a variety of opportunities available from casual sightseeing to bouldering, the Contact Corner area has become a spider web of social trails and eroded slopes over the years. With support from a Colorado Mountain Club grant, OSMP partnered with Flatirons Climbing Council (FCC) to implement three volunteer days in the fall of 2012 to implement the project. With Page 4 of 7 2012 Annual Report Trail Construction & Maintenance City of Boulder Open Space & Mountain Parks input from FCC, three major efforts were identified: 1.) designate and improve the minimum number of trails necessary to allow people to access the primary bouldering and sightseeing locations; 2.) close, restore, and re- vegetate remaining social trails; and 3.) install buck-and-rail fencing and signs to guide visitors to appropriate trails and recreation sites, and to protect closed areas. The FCC was responsible for providing input into the site plan and assisting with recruiting volunteers for the projects. All planned project work was implemented in the fall of 2012, with strong volunteer participation at each of the three projects (a total of 77 volunteers). OSMP staff planned the major project logistics, led volunteer groups, and coordinated with FCC. This effort proved to be a successful partnership resulting in major improvements to the site setting the stage for continued OSMP-FCC trail project partnerships. Lehigh Street Access Trails, Reroute and Improvements Workplan: West TSA Implementation Plan and Trail Maintenance Planning. Driving factors/benefits: Improve trail sustainability. Erosion, widening and braiding on the northern Lehigh access trail Trail improvements: 200 feet of trail rerouted. 100 feet of trail closed/restored. 2,100 feet of heavy trail maintenance. Overview: Both neighborhood access trails leading directly from Lehigh Street to the Shanahan area of OSMP needed considerable work. The northernmost of these two access points was rerouted due to the old trail being heavily eroded, widened and braided. The new alignment follows sustainability and trail-grade specifications to prevent future trail degradation. The southern access point received heavy maintenance to Constructing climbing turn steps for remove exposed rock, narrow the trail and prevent trail braiding. the new reroute Page 5 of 7 2012 Annual Report Trail Construction & Maintenance City of Boulder Open Space & Mountain Parks Volunteer Projects 2012 marked a year of significant increases in volunteer involvement in the trails program. Trails and volunteer-management staff coordinated to plan and implement each project. To increase leadership capacity for volunteer groups, one of the trail crews was in charge of developing the workplan, planning field logistics and leading each trail volunteer project. In summary: Number of projects: 13 Number of volunteer participants: 228 Project locations: Prairie Vista, stnd Green Bear, Homestead, 1/2 Flatiron, Sunshine Canyon and Contact Corner Number of volunteer hours: 1,522 Volunteers completed numerous field projects from assisting with tread excavation on trail construction projects (Homestead, Green Bear, Sunshine Canyon), to building fences, rock steps and retaining walls on projects that were entirely completed by volunteers stnd (1/2 Flatiron, Contact Corner). Trail Maintenance OSMP trail crews share the responsibility of trail maintenance with Junior Rangers. Each of the four trail crews spent 2-3 weeks at the beginning of the season and revisited various trails throughout the season doing cyclical maintenance (cleaning water bars, outsloping and de-berming tread and clearing vegetation). Additionally, trail crews completed a wide variety of more-intensive trail maintenance projects on numerous front-country (neighborhood access) and backcountry trails including: Bear Mountain Drive ndrd access point, Spring Brook/Fowler, 2/3 Flatiron, Kohler Mesa, Bear Canyon, Chautauqua/Bluebell, Mesa/Bluebell, Viewpoint and Tenderfoot. Page 6 of 7 2012 Annual Report Trail Construction & Maintenance City of Boulder Open Space & Mountain Parks Looking Forward to 2013 Major projects: The following trails are planned for large- scale construction efforts: Upper Big Bluestem reroute (West TSA Plan) Wittemyer/West Sanitas Trail (West TSA Plan) Shadow Canyon repair/heavy maintenance (West TSA Plan and post Flagstaff Fire rehabilitation efforts) The following trails or areas are planned for design efforts: Four Pines Green Mountain West Ridge Seal Rock Contact Corner/Crown Rock South Boulder Creek West Amphitheater and Amphitheater Express (heavy maintenance) Fern Meadow Trail maintenance: 2013 brings a number of changes to how OSMP plans for and implements cyclical and large-scale trail maintenance projects. Staff will expand use of the data generated by trail condition monitoring and trails database information to assess and prioritize trail maintenance needs. Additionally, larger-scale maintenance projects are being formally catalogued, prioritized and scheduled for maintenance in a more systematic method. Also for 2013, the OSMP trail system is being divided into geographic zones, which are then assigned to trails staff. Each staff member has responsibility for knowing the trail conditions in his/her zone, identifying needs and priorities and bringing this information back to the larger trails workgroup for Large-scale trail maintenance annual work planning. This will help staff develop a more systematic and projects, such as replacing focused approach to planning the work of numerous personnel (over 20 this deteriorating causeway, seasonal staff members, 10 Junior Ranger crews, and many AmeriCorps will be catalogued and crews, volunteers and jail crews) on a 146-mile trail system spread over prioritized in 2013 45,000 acres. Staffing: In mid-December, OSMP welcomed the addition of another full-time Maintenance III Trails Specialist (Gabe Wilson) who joined long-time staff member John Leither and Trails Supervisor, Greg Seabloom. This year OSMP will hire two 10-11 month Seasonal Trails Specialists to assist with managing 2013 trail projects and designing out-year projects. This will help with building planning and leadership capacity relative to OSMP’s expanded and budgeted seasonal crew structure. Page 7 of 7