BMA was invited to a special tour of South Heil Valley Ranch on May 26, 2022 with Boulder County Parks & Open Space staff and the Parks & Open Space Advisory Committee (POSAC). BMA came with many questions, here’s what we know.
The south side of Heil will reopen June 16, 2022.
All southern Heil trails and the Corral trailhead and main trailhead will reopen on June 16. This includes the Schoolhouse Loop, Overland Loop, the new Skills Loop, the Wapiti access road and the Lichen Loop and Grindstone Quarry hiking/equestrian trails.
The lower section of Wapiti Trail will be closed for nesting golden eagles.
The first singletrack section of the Wapiti will be closed with no estimated reopening date. The existing emergency access road will be the current detour. Unlike other areas with seasonal closures during nesting season, staff is closing the trail for an indeterminate amount of time. The new nest is 0.1 miles from the Wapiti trail and many of the birds’ perching trees are also hazard trees at risk of falling on the trail.
Boulder County is open to considering a new Wapiti singletrack detour.
BMA is advocating for a new singletrack detour to be built ASAP to connect the main trailhead to the upper singletrack. Staff will need to assess possible corridors but does not need to reopen the Heil Valley Ranch management plan to approve a detour. BMA has offered professional design and construction help.
The main trailhead will close at noon daily through September 30.
The main trailhead parking lot sits at the bottom of two drainages next to the creek. Modeling shows a high probability of flash flooding and landslides for this area. Modeling also shows most heavy monsoon rain events happen in the afternoon. There is risk of culverts and even the road washing out, trapping people in their vehicles or in the park. Cars left in the lot after noon will be ticketed.
Why is the parking lot closed every day at noon, even on days with no forecasted precipitation?
Staff wants the public to be used to the parking lot closing at noon and to plan their trip accordingly. The Picture Rock trailhead and Corral Trailhead will remain open sunrise to sunset. Parking is also allowed along Lefthand Canyon Drive.
But can’t staff monitor weather and close the parking lot when the risk of flooding is present?
Staff claims that they do not have the time nor resources to monitor the weather on a daily basis. They also are concerned about first-responder fatigue.
The trails will remain open sunrise to sunset.
Park staff said all trails will remain open this summer. Staff is adding flash flood warning and evacuation routes signs.
Visitors are encouraged to sign up to receive reverse 911 emergency messages for potential flooding. Messages are generated by the Office of Emergency Management using Everbridge Alerts. To receive alerts for Heil Valley Ranch, use the address 1188 Geer Canyon Rd., Boulder CO 80302. Please note, messages can only be received if you have cellular service. The park has limited service depending on the exact area and service provider.
What does BMA think about this?
BMA thinks that the daily noon closure of the main trailhead parking will result in increased demand for parking at the smaller Corral trailhead. Families looking to access the beginner trails opening to mountain biking will likely have to park on Lefthand Canyon Drive. BMA is concerned the resulting parking congestion and pedestrian use on Lefthand Canyon Drive outweighs the risks of flash flooding on dry days. We have requested that Boulder County use adaptive management practices and close the south side of Heil when there is risk of flash flooding and keep the main parking lot open on dry days.
I have concerns too, what should I do?
You can email Boulder County Parks & Open Space staff and County Commissioners your thoughts and concerns.
Click on image to see full gallery of POSAC tour.