Efforts to put Silverton on the map as a mountain biking destination got one step closer Wednesday: The Bureau of Land Management has proposed creating 30 miles of new singletrack trails just outside the small town in the San Juan Mountains.
“Roads and trails on public lands are very important to the economy of Silverton and San Juan County,” Gunnison Field Manager Elijah Waters said in a prepared statement. “This plan is an opportunity for the BLM to be a good neighbor by supporting local efforts toward travel management and responding to their vision for the future.”
In May, the Silverton Singletrack Society and the International Mountain Biking Association, both advocacy groups, released the “Baker’s Park concept plan” that calls for 30 miles of new trails in an area just north of Silverton, known locally as Storm Mountain and Boulder Mountain.
The hope, the groups said, was that the BLM would incorporate the plan as the agency simultaneously worked on its travel management plan for San Juan County, a document that comprehensively catalogues all the different trails and uses in the area.
And that’s exactly what happened Wednesday.
The BLM released its proposed “Silverton Area Travel Management” plan, which includes the new mountain biking trails. The proposed plan also includes allowing singletrack motorized use on a portion of Minnie Gulch, a new 3-mile trail near Animas Forks, and formally designating about 25 miles of existing trails not previously documented.
But the plan isn’t finalized: The BLM is accepting public comment through July 5, and a public meeting will be held 6 p.m. June 20 at the Kendall Mountain Lodge in Silverton.
Supporters of the mountain bike trails say there are fewer than 10 miles of official singletrack trails in Silverton, and the construction of the Baker’s Park trail system would provide much-needed mileage of shared-use trails for hikers and bikers.
The trails, though geared toward mountain bikers, would also be open to foot traffic.
Silverton Singletrack Society President Klemens Branner did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment Wednesday afternoon.
In a previous interview, Branner said the project hopes to break ground in spring 2020 and be completed in three years. The first two phases of the project, which cover 20 to 25 miles of trail, could cost $720,000 to $1.465 million, according to the mountain bike advocacy groups’ plan.
Earlier this year, the town of Silverton and San Juan County unanimously approved a much broader and expansive trails proposal, called the “Silverton Area Trails Plan,” which calls for 15 new trails to be built over the next 30 years.
Those trails have yet to be considered in an official capacity by the BLM, said agency spokesman Brant Porter.
“There is not enough information to analyze the full town and county proposal in this document,” according to the BLM. “However, the conceptual pods and trails in the Silverton Trails Plan would be analyzed in separate (environmental analyses) as proponents develop their proposals more fully.”
Porter said that, at this point, the BLM is just proposing the new trails. Actual construction would have to undergo other processes, including an environmental study. He said the BLM hopes to have a plan finalized by the end of the year, and work to begin in 2020.
Comments must be submitted through the BLM ePlanning site at https://go.usa.gov/xmMab