USFS Releases Draft Environmental Assessment for the Rico Trails Project
For the past two years, RTA has been working with the USFS Dolores Ranger district to improve and maintain non-motorized trails and address recreation needs in the Rico Area. Out of these discussions, the Forest Service scoped The Rico Trails Project. The public comment period on the project scope occurred in September, 2019. Today the USFS released the Draft Environmental Assessment for the Rico Trails Project. RTA supported this assessment by contracting a third-party consultant to complete the cultural resource survey for the non-motorized portions of the project.
How does the process work?
Trails projects through the USFS must adhere to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The process for trails projects of this size and scope follows several steps involving Project Scoping, Environmental Assessment, and Decision Making. At each point there is opportunity for public comment, which the USFS considers in its process.
What is the project scope?
The Rico Trails Project scope was modified after public comment to the USFS and currently consists of the following:
- Rio Grande Southern – The RGS will include 4.4 miles of gentle non-motorized trail along the RGS railroad grade connecting Rico to Montelores Bridge at the county line near the Salt Creek/Ryman trailhead, with a footbridge at the Scotch Creek trailhead. Although not yet an official USFS trail, the RGS is already consistently used by hikers, fishermen, and hunters.
- Circle Trail – Circle is an existing Forest Service non-system trail that connects between the Town of Rico and the Black Hawk section of the Colorado Trail. The proposed 2.6-mile trail would be designated for non-motorized use. As an existing non-system trail, the proposed route would only require limited trail work for improvement to meet USFS trail standards.
- Ryman Trail Re-alignment – Two trail reroutes (2.5 miles) on the existing Ryman trail would provide a more sustainable route. Ryman trail as currently aligned becomes mostly unusable at multiple points within the drainage.
- Spring Creek Relocation – The proposed Spring Creek Trail relocation consists of 3.4 miles of new motorized single track and 2.7 miles of existing motorized single track. The proposed trail would replace the existing Spring Creek Trail. Sections of non-motorized trail in the Stoner creek drainage would be decommissioned to offset wildlife impacts of the trail relocation.
Why is this project important?
The trails system around Rico is unique and extensive. However, the system has poor connectivity to the Town of Rico. Most of the trails in the Rico area are also very steep and often unsustainable, with no family-friendly or beginner options. With the handful of limited trail improvements listed above, the Rico trails system will be drastically improved into a coherent trail network with options for all abilities.
What is the next step?
A 30-day comment period beginning February 25, 2020 will give the public opportunity to comment on the Draft Environmental Assessment. RTA requests public support of the proposed scope in its entirety.