Austin Bluffs Master Plan

Austin Bluffs Master Plan

On Nov 7th 2019, COS Parks staff and Timberline consultants hosted the 3rd and final open house for the Austin Bluffs Open Space (ABOS) master plan. The meeting was held at Grant Elementary. The ABOS master plan covers Austin Bluffs, Pulpit Rock and University Park. More information including links to all the proposed maps are on the ABOS Website. Next steps – the plan will be presented at the Dec 12 Parks Board meeting for review, comments will be taken until the beginning of the year, and Parks Board will vote on the plan Jan 9th.

Medicine Wheel Trail Advocates participated in the plan as a stakeholder, sharing the suggestions we received from our members, including what we heard from you at the MWTA open house April 29th at Red Leg. This is a good thing for riders, since we heard at the open house that only 13 of 260 survey respondents reported mountain biking as their primary activity in the park! But don’t worry, the direction you provided was shared with the design team, and the plan includes some great trails including some optimized for mountain biking.

Overall we congratulate city staff and the consultant team on a job very well done. Although there will be some closures of the 33+ miles of social trails, the trail system that will be implemented will include sensible connections with adjacent parks, a variety of trail experiences (including a mini-Incline up Pulpit Rock!), and some trails optimized specifically for mountain biking. This is the description we’ve have for this designation:

Bike-optimized trails are trails purposely built for mountain bicyclists and range from rhythmic, flowing trails for the masses to steep, rugged technical trails reserved for riders with advanced skills. These bike-optimized trails contain numerous technical trail features enhanced naturally by the terrain and geology or manufactured in areas with better soils or even imported soils.
Technical trail features may include but are not limited to: rollers, berms, step-ups, step-downs, table top jumps, gap jumps, chicane sections, rock gardens, log skinnies, technical rock features (natural or man-made), and bridges/ladders.
Often these trails are directional trails – typically downhill only and typically only for mountain bikers, not hikers or equestrians. This allows a better separation of users by mode of transport, relative speed and of course skill level on the different levels of trails.

We are happy to see that the direction set in the 2014 Parks System Master Plan to accommodate new and emerging recreation trends is being followed.  The ABOS master plan incorporates your input and addresses the desires of riders, improves protection of wildlife and habitat, while describing a compelling new open space & trail experience for all users.

Regarding the closures of some existing informal trails: MWTA respects and supports the conservation values used to create the plan. Furthermore, in its current state, today’s spiderweb of redundant trails in ABOS is confusing and disorienting, and therefore inaccessible for the majority of users. Existing trails alternate between spectacularly constructed, armored singletrack, and unstable erosional gulleys. We support the proposed trail network including the closure of some unsustainable social trails, and the establishment of some wildlife zones free of trails. We continue to encourage Parks staff to incorporate as much of the existing sustainable trail as possible.

MWTA strongly supports the concept of the ‘Rim Trail’ running parallel to the top of the bluffs, with an overall ‘blue’ rating, with black/doubleblack B-Lines throughout. Much of this trail exists today, and many of the best features on the Rim will be preserved. The thoughtful connections to adjacent parks will enable epic loops through ABOS between Palmer and Ute Valley Parks. ABOS will be a hiking or riding destination on its own, and will become more efficient as a transportation amenity.

Attendees at the open house were asked to comment on the concept of allowing class 1 electric bicycles on the singletrack trails in ABOS. Here is a link to the e-bike information shared at the meeting. Overall the response at the meeting was unfavorable toward this concept, but there was clearly a range of opinions. MWTA believes that motorized bikes are appropriate on some trails in the region – especially on the large number of designated motorized trails throughout the Pike & San Isabel Forest, and also on the Tier 1 and 2 City Parks trails. However MWTA opposes a “Pilot Introduction” of motorized vehicles on singletrack trails in ABOS at this time.

If you have an opinion about whether eBikes should be allowed on Austin Bluffs singletrack, please email them to let them know.

MWTA is cooperating with Parks staff to convene a group of stakeholders to provide direction on if/how eBikes might be allowed more generally on single track in city parks. Until a community direction for this can be identified, and until clear criteria are laid out for assessing their impact, MWTA opposes allowing motorized vehicles on singletrack.

Relative to ABOS, here is the latest statement from the design team on the topic: For the purpose of this master plan we will not be recommending e-bikes but included text that it was discussed at the 3rd public meeting and that if it is considered in the future, the City would need to conduct studies on the impacts and have a public process.

Please keep an eye on the MWTA website and social media for more updates. MWTA will stay engaged with the implementation plan for ABOS and will keep you informed.

As always, your feedback is welcome – please email us your thoughts on how MWTA can better represent trail users .