Boulder County Parks & Open Space trail staff led a site visit of the proposed Wapiti trail reroute at Heil Valley Ranch on May 22, 2023. BMA and representatives from equestrian groups as well as a member of the Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee joined the tour. Boulder County acknowledged that BMA’s comments about the first proposed reroute inspired them to look other alternatives. We are delighted that Boulder County has found an alignment with 4 switchbacks instead of 13!
Original Alignment/Updated Alignment: Left (red) trail is old Wapiti, currently closed for nesting golden eagles. Right (yellow) trail with 13 turns is now (orange) 4 turns
BMA first reported on trail closure due to nesting eagles on May 27, 2022 and our thoughts on a Wapiti trail reroute on May 5, 2023.
We sent this email to Boulder County staff on May 16:
Hi Boulder County staff and Commissioners,
I wanted to thank you for your willingness to take another look at the Wapiti reroute. As you might know, BMA ran a petition, asking our community to “agree that I support BMA’s request that Boulder County staff consider BMA’s trail reroute proposal.” We did not take this action lightly, and only moved forward with a petition after my April 19 email request to staff for a 30 minute Zoom meeting and then my comments at the April 27 POSAC meeting did not lead to a conversation with staff.
We conducted the petition to generate awareness of the proposed trail reroute and to show the support our community has for Heil Valley Ranch. We also took this action to inform residents of the county’s proposed reroute, as the only written public county outreach on the proposal were social media posts rather than utilization of the POS news list.
Here are the petition results:
- Number of signatures: 601
- Number of visitors who mountain bike at Heil: 571
- Number of visitors who hike at Heil: 171
- Number of visitors who trail run at Heil: 74
- Number of visitors who go to view wildlife: 118
- Number of visitors who picnic at Heil: 36
- Number of people who ride horses at Heil: 3
A sampling of the 135 comments we received:
“A new trail is very welcomed here. Would look forward to riding Heil again instead of missing the old Pre fire Heil. I would gladly volunteer hours of my time to assist with trail construction.”
“Please use BMA alignment for a better user experience. There are very few places in Boulder County that offer the unique experience that South Heil provides. This alignment will be much better than the one BCPOS has proposed.”
“Adding more trail mileage in a manner that reduces building and maintenance resources makes good sense. I hope the county engages with BMA to come up with a good solution to meet wildlife restrictions while expanding bike trail mileage.”
“I absolutely respect the need to protect precious wildlife in our area, and it’s great to know those eagles are safe from any potential human harm. However, as a long-time mountain biker, it’s also been extremely painful to lose access to this section of trail – undoubtedly the best part of the network, and one of the only networks that are within very easy driving/riding distance from Boulder. I’ve seen firsthand the sorts of trail work Michael Rutter has done over the years, and it’s consistently not only fun to ride, but also highly sustainable with good options for riders of multiple skill levels. I highly support BMA’s proposal for Heil Ranch and trust their guidance here.”
“As a mom to two boys, we love biking Schoolhouse. We are looking forward to growing up in this space. Thank you!”
“Wapiti was a nicely built trail (my favorite in Heil Valley Ranch) and the existing dirt road reroute and the proposed 12-switchbacks-is-too-many trail are not exciting.”
“First – thanks for understanding that a trail to link to the other trails is better than the road climb! Thanks for considering a different alignment and a trail down to the trailhead would be awesome!”
“Good riding and conservation values don’t need to conflict.”
“Heil Valley Ranch used to be a destination, but the current road reroute is a massive deterrent. We have seen that with an increase in user visits that we need more options to spread the users out, and in it’s current state Heil is not on my radar for consideration. Let’s use this opportunity to improve on something rather than just sticking with the status quo.”
“Is there any way the county would consider additional downhill only options on both the Heil and Picture Rock sides of the park? The current trails work great for uphill, but with so many more users these days, the system would benefit from DH only sections on both sides, similar to what they’ve done at White Ranch and Apex. It would make hiking and biking much safer and more enjoyable on the current trail system and provide safer and more fun DH sections for all riders.”
“The conservation of our raptors is very important and I fully support it. If there is a better route that takes less resources it should be considered.”
“Wapiti had been my favorite route before the fires. I hate the access road slog, although I understand the need for it and appreciate being able to ride anything at Heil. The reroute will make it even better than before.”
“When the bike experience is improved by this new trail design, bikers will be more invested in Heil Ranch.”
“Absolutely love the single track route idea to the parking lot! I look forward to volunteering dig time!”
We look forward to seeing staff’s ideas on improving this trail reroute and as always we stand by ready to help in any way we can.
We had questions for Boulder County staff at the tour, here’s what we learned.
How long will it take to build the reroute?
Boulder county staff is ready to start building, but US Fish & Wildlife must sign off on the plan first. Make sure you are signed up for our newsletter to find BMA volunteer events to help out!
How long is this trail section?
A bit under a mile at 4400 ft, and about 150 ft of elevation change. The access road section is about 1.2 miles long, the trail reroute will cut off 0.3 of the road climb.
Will the new trail eventually start from the main trailhead?
Boulder County staff is open to looking at options from the main trailhead. The first priority is building the proposed reroute, about 0.7 miles up the service road from the trailhead. Once this project is complete, staff can look at options for extension.
Will the original trail ever reopen?
If the golden eagles abandon this nest, there is a possibility of reopening the original trail. US Fish & Wildlife has guidelines in place to determine if the nest is truly abandoned, and it could be up to 5 years after the eagles leave before the trail could be reopened. The eagles are currently nesting, and there’s a good chance of seeing them flying over Heil, especially by the prairie dog town in the meadow near the start of the original trail.
How do I support BMA’s involvement with this project and more?
Glad you asked. Your BMA membership supports work like this. Join or renew now!
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