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Austin Bluffs, Pulpit Rock, University Park OS Master Plan

Scheduled Trail Love Dig Date in Austin Bluffs: Sat Oct 21, 2023.

In 2019, COS Parks staff and Timberline consultants hosted the 3rd and final open house for the Austin Bluffs Open Space (ABOS) master plan. In 2020 the plan, which covers Austin Bluffs, Pulpit Rock and University Park, was adopted by the Parks Board and city council. Please have a look at the plan on the city’s ABOS Website.

MedWheel participated in the plan as a stakeholder, sharing suggestions received from our members and trail users during the plan development.

Overall we congratulate city staff and the consultant team on a job well done. The trail system that continues to be implemented will includes sensible connections to adjacent parks, a variety of trail experiences (including a mini-Incline up Pulpit Rock!), plus a bike-optimized and a DH only MTB trail. This is the city’s description of bike-optimized:

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.

MedWheel respects and supports the conservation values used to create this plan. We support the proposed trail network including the closure of some unsustainable social trails, and the establishment of wildlife zones. We were pleased to see the plan specifying inclusion of as much of the existing trail as possible,.

During plan development, MedWheel consistently (but politely!) advocated for the concept of the ‘Rim Trail’ running parallel to the top of the bluffs, with an overall ‘blue’ rating, with expert option lines throughout. Most of the Rim trail has existed for years and meets the needs of users and the park. Strategic connections into 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 function as a transportation amenity for some riders.

During the plan development, the public was asked to comment on the concept of allowing class 1 electric bicycles on the singletrack trails in ABOS. Here is a link to the information shared. Since some of the property in ABOS was purchased with funds the TOPS program, which prohibits motorized use, it was concluded that adding e-bikes to the management plan was not legal or feasible at this time. Here’s the final statement from the ABOS team: 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 MedWheel website and social media for more updates. We continue to be engaged with the implementation plan for ABOS, and in particular we’re pleased to have provided detailed design input for the bike-optimized trail, as well as concepts for the DH-only trail. As always, your feedback is welcome – please email us!