Photo: Open Lands Rivers and Trails Advisory Committee (OLRTAC) chair Paul Bruchez gives recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners     photo by Casey Malon

For the spring 2019 Open Lands, Rivers and Trails grant cycle, a total of 6 applications were submitted by the February 20 closing date. The Open Lands, Rivers and Trails Advisory Committee (OLRTAC) had completed their review and presented their recommendations at Tuesday’s meeting. Of the six applicants, four were recommended for funding, one was recommended for an extension to allow the applicant time to rework the application, and, one was recommended to seek funding from more befitting sources.

OLRTAC Committee Chair Paul Bruchez told the commissioners, “the Trails grants are very straightforward. Generally speaking, the committee supported all of them very highly”. All four of the grants were awarded to Headwaters Trails Alliance (HTA) for upcoming trail improvement projects. “The Committee voted unanimously on all four grants, awarding $72,734 in total. They all ranked well”, said Bruchez.

Chair Cimino asked, “How does the committee know the works gets done?”

OLRTAC Administrator, Anna Drexler-Dreis, explained that when the applicant is awarded funds, they sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the county. The final grant report is due within 12 months of signing. Anna told the commissioners that all applicants awarded funds in the first grant cycle in spring 2018 had submitted their final report or requested an extension. The final reports include before and after photos. “We have documentation the work has been completed”, she said. The Town of Fraser had requested an extension due to staffing turnover and anticipate completing their project this summer.

For the spring grant cycle, the total amount of Trails funds available (as of 1/31/2019) is $77,135.29, which is 15% of total OLRT funds as set by the resolution. With recommended funding of $72,734, this leaves a balance of $4,401.29.

Trails projects recommended for approval:

Headwaters Trails Alliance (HTA): Strawberry Trail Bridges

Description: HTA is requesting $14,450, which is 66% of the total project budget (not including in-kind) for the Strawberry Trail Bridges project. Strawberry Creek and West Strawberry Trails are popular hiking, biking, backpacking, and equestrian/hunting trails located in Tabernash. These two trails need bridge repair/replacement and need a new bridge in a flooded area due to beaver activity. Both issues pose public safety and environmental concerns. Due to the wetland terrain, these structures are necessary tread features.

Recommended Funding: With an average score of 87.9, OLRTAC recommends $14,450 to be allocated to this project. Motion passed unanimously.

OLRTAC Reasoning: This project relies heavily on volunteers to conduct the needed maintenance work. This trail is accessible to the Granby/Grand Lake and Fraser Valley communities due to different access points, which allows for more connectivity and access across the County.


HTA and Indian Peaks Traverse: Broken Thumb Trail Turnpike

Description: HTA and Indian Peaks Traverse are requesting $3,325, which is 77% of the total project budget (not including in-kind) for the Broken Thumb Trail Turnpike project. The Indian Peaks Traverse is a proposed 66-mile single-track, non-motorized, multi-use route linking Boulder to Winter Park. The non-profit, 501(c)(3) group devoted to the completion of the entire route was legally formed in 2017 and is educating and advocating on behalf of the missing links of the trail system, in addition to assisting with trail projects. The Broken Thumb Trail in Winter Park is an important connect or trail in this route, linking Rollins Pass to the Idlewild Trail System. For this project, HTA is proposing a multi-day work project with the Indian Peaks Traverse organization, its volunteers, and HTA field staff/volunteers to make much-needed public safety and environmental improvements to a historically wet, dangerous and environmentally degraded section of trail. In addition to the construction of a large turnpike, HTA plans to perform trail maintenance and to remove standing dead lodgepole pine adjacent to the trail.

Recommended Funding: With an average score of 85.9, OLRTAC recommends $3,325 to be allocated to this project. Motion passed unanimously.

OLRTAC Reasoning: This trail connects Winter Park to Boulder and the ask is small compared to the benefits.


HTA: Buffalo Creek Trail Bridge and Maintenance

Description: HTA is requesting $18,875, which is 71% of the total project budget (not including in-kind) for the Buffalo Creek Trail Bridge and Maintenance project. Buffalo Creek Trail is a popular non-motorized, multi-use trail located to the west of Highway 125 outside Granby. HTA is proposing a multi-day work project with Rocky Mountain Conservancy, HTA field staff and USFS field crew to make much-needed public safety and environmental improvements to the easternmost one-mile section of trail.

Recommended Funding: With an average score of 85.0, OLRTAC recommends $18,875 to be

allocated to this project with the requirement that the maintenance project include an equestrian educational component. Motion passed unanimously.

OLRTAC Reasoning: Improving this trail will improve access to other trails in the area. This is an area where trail maintenance funds have not been spent previously and the need for maintenance is apparent.


HTA: Burnout Loop Trail Maintenance

Description: Headwaters Trails Alliance is requesting $36,084, which is 69% of the total project budget (not including in-kind) for the Burnout Loop Trail Maintenance project. Burnout Loop Trail is a 1.6-mile, year-round, non-motorized trail at the northeastern end of the Idlewild Trail system in the Fraser Valley that is heavily eroded, has poor fall line alignment, is partially an old road corridor and needs heavy trail maintenance, regrading and rerouting in order to bring this trail to deferral specifications for sustainability and multi-use.

Recommended Funding: With an average score of 79.9, OLRTAC recommends $36,084 to be allocated to this project with the requirement that HTA try to secure funding from Winter Park Resort. Motion passed unanimously.

OLRTAC Reasoning: This trail system is heavily used and needs maintenance, especially the riparian area.

Chair Bruchez moved on to the Open Lands and Rivers applicants, with a total of $1,124,371.62 in funding available (through 1/31/2019). The OLRTAC did not recommend any funding under either category at this time.

For Lands, the request from Grand Huts for Showalter Hut, phase 1 scored high, “but there are  a lot of moving parts”, said Bruchez. The committee recommended an extension to May 23, 2019, so they are able to secure appropriate partnership. “This is a great project that can benefit many.” Bruchez told the commissioners the committee “would like to see this funding resource be flexible in timing”. Commissioner Manguso stated, “I think we are all in agreement that you’re doing the right thing”.

Grand Huts Association (GHA): Schowalter Hut: Phase 1

Description: GHA is requesting $18,000, which is 56% of the total project budget (not including in-kind) for the Schowalter Hut Phase 1 project. GHA is a non-profit organization dedicated to the long-term vision of linking the Grand County backcountry with a system of eco-friendly huts that can be used year-round for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, biking and other non-motorized outdoor pursuits by diverse populations. GHA is in the final planning phase of its next hut in the Hamilton Creek drainage in Tabernash and has several outstanding needs to complete this phase, including appraisals to determine the land and conservation easement values of a 66-acre parcel of land that provides access both to the future hut site and to adjacent federal land. The latter is critical as the access to this area along the High Lonesome Trail is blocked due to large property ownership along the Denver Water Board Road. This request is Phase 1 of what GHA, Headwaters Trails Alliance (HTA), and the Colorado Headwaters Land Trust (CHLT), anticipate will be a multi-phase project to place a conservation and a public access trail easement on land adjacent to a donated 40-acre parcel that both abut national forest. Before the terms of the easements can be negotiated, the land value and value of the conservation easement must be determined by an appraiser qualified to value conservation easements. The requested grant funding would be used to offset these remaining costs in this final planning phase.

Recommended Funding: With an average score of 78.1, OLRTAC recommends allowing the Grand Huts Association an extension on their grant application to May 23, 2019. Motion passed unanimously.

OLRTAC Reasoning: This application does not qualify for Open Lands and Rivers funding because there is not currently a qualified primary applicant.

For Rivers, the Town of Grand Lake had submitted an application for the Lower North Fork Colorado River Nine Elements Restoration Plan. The committee did not feel it met as part of the OLRT resolution. With no public access or easement, it is a study to look toward river restoration. “We would love to see this kind of work happen. This is a good opportunity to work with other partners for funding.” Bruchez told the commissioners there were funding opportunities for these types of plans available through the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) and the Colorado Basin Roundtable. Learning By Doing also covers the North Fork and it is critical to coordinate and plan with other partners. “We understand there’s a problem with the North Fork, but we did not see it fitting within OLRT funds.”

Chair Cimino thanked the committee for their judiciously applied recommendations. “I’d like to hear the applicants speak for that project.”

Dave Troutman, with the Upper Colorado River Watershed Group (UCRWS), representing the Town of Grand Lake, addressed the commissioners. “We did contact a number of agencies, including the 3 Lakes Watershed Group, and we have approached other people. In the upper part of the watershed, an independent study is going on in Rocky Mountain National Park. We are studying below and will work together.”

Troutman described the stretch as ‘loaded with sedimentation and is unusable. We felt it did qualify.” He added, “Our hope is that these funds will be broad enough in definition to pursue use where they are needed. If the county’s not willing to support it, these areas are not going to be addressed. Our goal is to collect and provide data to gather more funding to do restoration work”.

Chair Bruchez explained that there is a lot of funding in the state for projects such as this. As a member of the Colorado Basin Roundtable, they had just approved an integrated water management plan for Summit County on Monday. “I am very certain, if the applicants work Colorado Basin Roundtable and the CWCB, I am quite certain there is opportunity”. He added,

Andy Miller, a member of the UCRWS, told the commissioners, “We’re a small organization in our infancy and don’t have the resources to do this on our own. That is the purpose of this application. We are very passionate. All of us are searching for ways to preserve water quality.  The 9 Elements Plan is the tool we used, but all of these funding sources look for sources of local engagement”.

Bruchez told the commissioners he believed the applicants could obtain funding in a matter of months. “I give you my commitment to work with the applicants to seek these funds.”

The applicants withdrew their application in order to pursue funding from sources suggested.

Commissioner Manguso told the applicants, “If this doesn’t work out, I will be open to reconsidering”.

The commissioners approved the four Trails grant applications and the extension of GHA’s Land application to May 23rd. The fund balance, as of January 31, 2019, minus $72,734 in approved funding, stands at $1,128,772.92. The fall 2019 grant cycle dates will be announced by the OLRTAC this summer.

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