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Access Alert: Jones Park, Upper Bear Creek to be closed

Colorado 14ers access and fee issues only, please
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Access Alert: Jones Park, Upper Bear Creek to be closed

Postby Jim Davies » Tue Mar 19, 2013 9:57 am

The US Forest Service has been quietly planning to close all access to the popular Bear Creek and Jones Park area. A public open house on this will be held April 4 - please attend if you care about access to this local gem. Details follow.

A few years ago, a researcher discovered that the only pure population of Greenback Cutthroat Trout, the state fish, lives in Bear Creek near Colorado Springs. In response, an environmental group threatened to sue the Forest Service over rampant motorcycle use in the watershed.

These fish are not natives to Bear Creek. They were apparently introduced by a landowner who wanted to have a trout pond at his tourist lodge back in the 19th century, and have remained pure only because other fish can't get at them due to waterfalls in the lower part of the creek. They have survived over a century despite a toll road up the canyon in the early 1900's, homesteaders in the Jones Park area that comprises the upper watershed, and decades of hiking, camping, and recreational motorcycle use.

In response to the lawsuit threat, the Forest Service last year banned camping in the watershed, and banned motorized use on the popular Bear Creek trail. This was widely criticized locally, since the dirt bikers not only do volunteer trail work on that route, but also provide funds for restoration and conservation in the drainage through license fees.

Well, apparently this wasn't enough. The Forest Service now plans to ban all access to the upper creek (including hiking), and close all trails that lead to Jones Park. This closure will also ban off-trail access to the area, which will mostly cut off climbing access to Mount Garfield, Mount Arthur, Tuckaway Mountain, Tenney Crags, and others in the area.
http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/psicc/home/?cid=STELPRDB5397304

Here are the before-and-after trail maps they've proposed for the area. Note that in addition to closing Jones Park, the proposal would reroute motorcycle traffic down a scree field on Kineo Mountain onto the Seven Bridges trail.
BearCreekTrails-Old.jpg
Existing trail in Jones Park area. Motorized trails are in green.
BearCreekTrails-Old.jpg (54.58 KiB) Viewed 1686 times

BearCreekTrails-New.jpg
Proposed trail changes in Jones Park area. Closed trails are in black.
BearCreekTrails-New.jpg (56.21 KiB) Viewed 1686 times


This is a travesty. If you haven't heard about this yet, now is the time to get informed and get noisy.
A public open house to present this plan will be held on Thursday, April 4, 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm, at the Leon Young Service Center for CS Utilities, Pikes Peak Room, 1521 Hancock Expressway.

Incidentally, most of the closures aren't even on Forest Service land. Jones Park and the entire upper Bear Creek watershed are owned by Colorado Springs Utilities. CSU has long resisted public access to "their" land. They've only recently agreed to provide access to the South Slope of Pikes Peak, and the process to open them is crawling along at a glacial pace. Jones Park has long been the exception, a CSU property that has been open to the public for hiking, camping, and biking, and is one of the only places in the area open to dirt bikes. The Utilities board is also the Colorado Springs City Council, so local residents should have a great deal of influence in whether this closure takes place.
Last edited by Jim Davies on Tue Mar 19, 2013 4:43 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: All Access to upper Bear Creek, Jones Park to be cut off

Postby doggler » Tue Mar 19, 2013 10:01 am

I simply cannot believe I haven't heard about this yet.

I practically live on those trails.

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Re: All Access to upper Bear Creek, Jones Park to be cut off

Postby Jim Davies » Tue Mar 19, 2013 10:03 am

They've been very, very quiet about it so far. With good reason.
Some people are afraid of heights. Not me, I'm afraid of widths. -- Steven Wright

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Re: All Access to upper Bear Creek, Jones Park to be cut off

Postby Jim Davies » Tue Mar 19, 2013 1:24 pm

I see this has been noticed by the mountain bike and dirt bike communities also. Hopefully we can get some pressure on our government officials to preserve access.
Some people are afraid of heights. Not me, I'm afraid of widths. -- Steven Wright

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Re: Access Alert: Jones Park, Upper Bear Creek to be closed

Postby Jim Davies » Tue Mar 19, 2013 6:50 pm

Just as a curiosity, here's a picture of Jones Park in 1903, from "Shattered Dreams on Pikes Peak (Jones Park, Lake Moraine, and Seven Lakes)", a 1989 monograph by Ivan Brunk. I believe there is a trout pond visible below and to the right of the Bear Creek Inn, next to the creek, no doubt containing the ancestors of today's endangered fish.
JonesPark1903.jpg
Jones Park from Kineo Mountain, 1903
JonesPark1903.jpg (119.25 KiB) Viewed 1531 times


A few interesting quotes from that monograph, referring to a 1903 article:
"The toll gate on Bear Creek, just above the Short Line trestle, charges 25 cents per person walking, and $1.50 per team."

25 cents in 1903 is equivalent to about $7 today.
[Bear Creek Inn renter]Romyn also stated that two ponds at Mariona [Jones] Park were stocked with fish and he was asking for 20,000 more with which to stock Bear Creek. But these were just more of the plans for developments at Jones Park which did not come to fruition.

Brunk also mentions there was a sawmill and cattle grazing in the park sometime early in the 20th century.
Last edited by Jim Davies on Tue Mar 19, 2013 10:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Access Alert: Jones Park, Upper Bear Creek to be closed

Postby susanjoypaul » Tue Mar 19, 2013 8:10 pm

This is so hard to believe. That's got to be one of the most popular hiking areas in the Springs - especially with Waldo Canyon closed. Thanks for bringing it to our attention, Jim.

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Re: Access Alert: Jones Park, Upper Bear Creek to be closed

Postby jsdratm » Tue Mar 19, 2013 8:59 pm

Wow, I used to hike those trails pretty frequently when I lived in the Springs and I used 667 to get to Tuckaway Mountain, which is a beautiful hike. There are some nice beaver ponds along there. Although the motorcycles are very obnoxious and I would be glad to see them off of that trail (I've seen them illegally going up Mt. Rosa and almost got run over a few times), I don't see what benefit the fish will derive from not having people hiking next to the creek. In my opinion you should be free to hike anywhere in the forest as long as you aren't causing mischief.

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Re: All Access to upper Bear Creek, Jones Park to be cut off

Postby Doug Shaw » Tue Mar 19, 2013 9:56 pm

Jim Davies wrote:I see this has been noticed by the mountain bike and dirt bike communities also. Hopefully we can get some pressure on our government officials to preserve access.


When you've pissed off both human-powered AND motor-powered recreationalists you've really gone out of your way to craft something prone to failure.

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Re: Access Alert: Jones Park, Upper Bear Creek to be closed

Postby Jim Davies » Tue Mar 19, 2013 10:20 pm

FYI, the trail over Mount Rosa is a legal motorbike trail. We encountered a trail crew there last year that was funded by OHV license fees. I don't think "us against them" arguments are helpful in this process - we all want these trails open.
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Re: Access Alert: Jones Park, Upper Bear Creek to be closed

Postby Monte Meals » Tue Mar 19, 2013 10:40 pm

jsdratm "I used to hike those trails pretty frequently when I lived in the Springs and I used 667 to get to Tuckaway Mountain, which is a beautiful hike. There are some nice beaver ponds along there. Although the motorcycles are very obnoxious and I would be glad to see them off of that trail

Please keep your Obnoxious Elite Boulder Ethos away from Pikes Peak.

I live and hike in Colorado Springs. Yes, I have encountered motorcycles on the trails and have *yet* to meet one who was not
courteous.

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Re: Access Alert: Jones Park, Upper Bear Creek to be closed

Postby jsdratm » Tue Mar 19, 2013 11:08 pm

Personal attacks are a bit uncalled for, Monte. Yes, Boulder is much more restrictive when it comes to off road vehicles and even mountain biking and that appeals to some people. I know I'm not the only person who goes hiking to get away from noise and enjoy nature, that is why there are designated OHV areas. In any case, I hope that you guys can prevent them from closing the trails to hikers.

Edit: Looking at their trails assessment report and the pictures of the severe trail erosion, I can see why it is a problem. That is some of the worst trail erosion I've ever seen in Colorado and the trails need to be made sustainable, much like what CFI is doing with the 14er trails. It looks like the primary justification for closure is the erosion causing sediment deposition in the water. Since the USFS is so understaffed, maybe if the locals can muster some volunteers to implement their recommendations for stabilizing the trails it will help sway the decision.

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Re: Access Alert: Jones Park, Upper Bear Creek to be closed

Postby mattpayne11 » Wed Mar 20, 2013 9:50 am

This is certainly an interesting topic no doubt. It is very complicated. I'm on the board for Rocky Mountain Field Institute and we have been working in the area for a little bit now - you can read more about it here:

http://www.rmfi.org/projects/bear-creek-watershed-pikes-peak

If you want to make a difference, get involved on some restoration projects or donate. The more we can make the area a sustainable recreational area, the more likely USFS will keep it open, IMO.

I also agree we need to all work together on this, motorcyclists, hikers, etc... not a us vs. them attitude.

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