Posted by: Howell | July 25, 2011

Stacy’s Loop obstructed and pacified by Trails 2000 and City Official

Wielding an excavator and several volunteers, Trails 2000’s organizers recently obstructed the old Stacy’s Loop with dirt, sticks and rocks while replacing it with a slow, meandering switchback trail. It had the effect of boring many of its most recent users, while thrilling other riders.

Nick Collins, an avid Horse Gulch mountain biker, rode the new Stacy’s loop right after they made the new route.

The excavator used on the project was seen Sunday at the bottom of the big meadow in Horse Gulch. It was used to pull mounds of dirt onto the old Stacy's Loop in order to obstruct it as a usable trail.

“Me and my girlfriend rode it, and it ended up being complete crap. They took down all the berms. They made it all super sandy and loose. It’s pretty much the worst trail in the Gulch now, when it was one of the more fun downhills. You could bank corners, and really rip it up if you wanted to. Now it’s just flat and sandy.”

“I actually haven’t even been on it since, because it was so bad that one time.” Considering the end result of the group’s project, Collins said that he feels like they did way more damage than any sort of good.

Small gamble oak that was cut to make the new trail was used to divert people away and cover the old Stacy's Loop.

With good intentions, Trails 2000 organizers  intended to re-route Stacy’s Loop in order to improve drainage, flow and contour in order to make for a more sustainable trail by reducing ruts from summer thunderstorms.

Durango’s Director of Natural Lands, Trails and Sustainability Kevin Hall said the old Stacy’s Loop presented a safety issue because of how eroded it had become from rains.

“I was out there, and I saw it, and I heard it from a lot of folks, about the fact that it was not a safe condition for folks that are less than seasoned on their bicycle. So you know–the kids or the beginners. We also heard from runners that because it was so v’d out, that it was a bit challenging for them to run on it.”

As for the possibility of trail users taking advantage of the recently constructed swtichbacks to travel clockwise against the traditional flow of traffic (counterclockwise), Hall didn’t see that as a safety concern.

“The traditional flow pattern is always counterclockwise, and I think it will stay that way,” Hall said.

“I don’t know why anyone would want to choose to go in the opposite direction,” said Hall. “Could that happen? Yeah it could happen. I would hope that we don’t run into problems with it.  Honestly, if we find out that it becomes an issue, then we look at what we need to do to deal with it.”

“One thing we haven’t wanted to do is overregulate the trails,” Hall said.

Sage brush, sticks, rocks, and mounds of dirt pulled out of the ground by an excavator were used, in addition to gamble oak cut for the new trail, to cover up the old Stacy's Loop.

Hall said that once the new reroute settles in, it will be just as fast of a trail as the old one for users going counterclockwise.

In the end, the new trail turned out to be a real bore for some recent mountain bikers who were used to the banking turns and gravity-fed speed they would gain on the old Stacy’s Loop.

While the old Stacy’s could have been drained using water bars or natural barriers, Trails 2000 organizers elected to bypass it and eliminate it for the most part.  They put in a series of swichbacks that often times re-routes users back up hill, with the effect of slowing their momentum. In one case, the trail switchbacks uphill right before a water bar that one trail user thought was supposed to be a jump.

An excavator the group rented from Target Rental of Durango was used to obstruct the old Stacy’s Loop from future travelers by scooping up large chunks of dirt and placing them in the middle of the old trail.

Trails 2000 board member Daryl Crites ran the excavator to impede the old Stacy’s Loop, saying that trails placed right up the fall line tend to convert into gullies and ditches, instead of trails.

“We got some complaints last year after those big gully washers, there was that little rut that was about 3 or 4 inches wide by 2 or 3 inches deep, right down the bottom of Stacy’s, which just made it a disaster.”

“We’ve been looking at solving that situation,” Crites said. “I think we’ve been studying it 3 or 4 years now.”

The new rerouted Stacy's Loop is seen in this picture with the old, covered-up route leading off to the right.

“If we didn’t do something, it was just going to turn into another one of those big gullies. So, that’s where the switchbacks came in,” he said. “You’re right, they do go down and turn and go uphill. And the whole purpose of that is to have a place to get rid of the water and make it sustainable so that they just don’t gully on out.”

“While we were doing that we wanted to turn it into a flowing, fun trail,” he said.

“I think it’s actually way faster than it ever was before, on a bicycle anyway, because you have those big roundhouse turns,” said Crites, “and a little smoother, just better feel to the trail.”

During the same time that Stacy’s Loop was getting revamped, Trail 2000 was adding an easier switchbacking trail to the end of the meadow loop as an option for kids or beginners who sometimes fall on the loose downhill nose of the ridge exiting into the bottom of the meadow. While the old trail continuing down the ridge was left intact, the new one takes a left near the rock jump and heads north towards the sunny side of the ridge on its way down.

While this blogger can sympathize with the construction of more beginner-oriented trails around the Meadow Loop, the obstruction and destruction of Stacy’s Loop under the guise of sustainability is seen as a narrowly-focused management decision. After riding Stacy’s Loop over the past 11 years, through 11 monsoon seasons, not once did Stacy’s become impassible or dangerous to this blogger. It used to be a fun, flowing trail that allowed riders to keep their momentum through the use of banking turns that were, in part, created by the assistance of mundane erosion caused by rain.

Many of the users of the old Stacy’s Loop were indeed downhill/freeride/all-mountain-oriented mountain bikers.

Public versus private property ownership map for Horse Gulch. Image courtesy of Kevin Hall.

For a trail that’s used by multiple user groups to be augmented and pacified to meet the needs of younger, less experienced user groups goes without reason. Plenty of trails exist or can be created to meet the needs of beginner riders, hikers or runners without subverting and contorting a trail that’s built its reputation on speed, banking turns, and gravity with the assistance of some mundane erosion effects.

This blogger encourages readers to contact Mary Monroe or Daryl Crites of Trails 2000 to request that the group never uses heavy machinery in Horse Gulch again, regardless of their trail construction needs (info@trails2000.org). Also, readers are encouraged to contact Durango’s Natural Lands, Trails and Sustainability Director Kevin Hall (hallks@ci.durango.co.us) and encourage him not to allow any more heavy-handed single-track re-routes in Horse Gulch using heavy machinery. If motorcycles aren’t allowed on City open space purchased with GOCO money, neither should excavators or other heavy machinery, with the exception to those used for the suppression of wildfires.

Hall also spoke about the prospect of developments he thinks the community supports at the trail heads to Horse Gulch.

While a wheel-chair accessible path from the bottom of Horse Gulch would be impractical, said Hall, a path from the north side/Goeglein Gulch area would be more of a conisderation for the City to undertake given the more gradual topographical approach towards the meadow area.

The City would have to pick up the tab for such a path that meets federal standards, said Hall. For the time being, however, the City will honor a handicapped person’s request to access Horse Gulch from either the bottom or top of Horse Gulch Road through either gate, Hall said.

Additionally, Hall spoke about support for putting in a nice trailhead with some type of bathroom facility.

“But we’re not at a point where we know with any certainty how that’s going to look or where it’s going to go or when it might happen,” Hall said. “But it’s definitely something we all recognize there’s a need for.”

“I don’t want to see that up in Horse Gulch,” said Hall. “I want to see that at the trail head.”

This blogger is asking that such a structure be scratched from the city’s plans, as currently existing bathrooms on City property are poorly maintained. Human fecal matter in the Gulch is not currently a problem, and until it does become a problem this blogger sees the construction of a bathroom there as a means to the City charging trail users a fee to enter.

Cliff Pinto of Pedal the Peaks declined to comment for this story, and Mary Monroe of Trails 2000 did not return this blogger’s phone call and voice message.

As for the recent decimation of Stacy’s Loop, please join me in speaking out against this atrocity and oppression of a smile-inducing trail that many of us used to love.

Please sign our petition demanding that Horse Gulch open space be left as a primitive area by clicking here: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/save-primitive-horse-gulch/

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