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County pushes forward with OHV park

Advocates and opponents showed up in full force April 15 at Falcon High School for the second of several planning meetings for the proposed off-highway vehicle facility at Corral Bluffs.For the first hour, attendees broke into four discussion groups covering flora, wildlife, archeology/paleontology and noise abatement.Amber Jack, leader of the archeology and paleontology group, said that David Hill, Ph.D. and David Daitch, Ph.D. have been hired to review the scientific literature and museum records pertaining to the site. They also will conduct a preliminary reconnaissance of the 522 acres, with each spending five hours at the site.Tim Wolken, county parks director, led the noise abatement discussion group. Wolken released text of a draft sound-abatement policy stating that activities at the facility will not cause the sound levels to exceed 55 decibels at the property line. The draft includes an exception for special events.The draft also specifies that motorcycles must have an exhaust system that does not exceed 96 decibels, measured 20 inches from the exhaust outlet.Wolken summarized the process by saying that the county is studying the feasibility of the site for an OHV trail system while at the same time addressing environmental and neighborhood concerns.Members of the audience asked about the role the Aztec Family Raceway plays in the project.”We were approached by Aztec about being able to try to do this,” Wolken said. “It made the most sense to work with Aztec on this particular project. At this point in time, we don’t have an agreement with Aztec.”Wolken said other individuals had expressed interest in running the facility but declined to name them. He also declined to name the other five sites he said the county considered before deciding on Corral Bluffs.As to whether the selection of a concessionaire will be open to competitive bidding, Wolken said, “I don’t think I’m ready to talk about that tonight.””If this land was identified previously by at least three organizations, including county parks, as a high-priority conservation area, why was this land use suggested to begin with?” asked Judy von Ahlefeldt.”I would have walked you through the whole business model,” Wolken answered. “I don’t want to spend that much time on it.” He then spent several minutes talking about the county’s open space policy.”I asked about high-priority conservation,” von Ahlefeldt said.”I’m using a more generic term,” Wolken said. “The city, when they are purchasing open space property, allow human contact in most cases. We’re doing the same here with this particular site.””What is your definition of high-priority conservation?” von Ahlefeldt asked. But Wolken moved on to a question about whether the state grant allows for the selection of an alternative OHV site and whether the grant application can be modified.”The grant we have at this point is site specific to Corral Bluffs,” Wolken said. “I have not approached the Colorado State Parks board with that request [to modify the grant application].An OHV supporter described Hartman Rocks near Grand Junction as a multi-use, organized area for mountain bikes, hiking and four wheeling. “I was out there last summer and I didn’t see anybody violating any of the rules. The single tracks were being used for single track. With some good planning, it is very possible to put together something that is very unobtrusive. We don’t ride off the trails because we don’t want to lose the trails.”Another OHV supporter expressed concern that 20 miles of trail is not enough. “What happens on day one, if I show up and there’s a hundred people that want to ride?” he asked.”You’re suggesting we have some sort of cap on the number of people on the trail,” Wolken responded.”I don’t know what that amount of people would look like on 20 miles. To me, it looks small,” the OHV supporter said.Howard Kunstle, who owns property next to the proposed OHV facility said, “This is a railroad job if there ever was one. You want to put your foot in the door with a little 18-inch-wide trail. And five years from now, we’re going to have rock-climbing walls for vehicles and ATVs out there. I don’t think these people are going to stand for that and you need to know that.”It is my understanding from the application grant there is going to be $140,000 to improve the Aztec property. Is that correct?””I don’t recall that,” Wolken said.”Well, I recall it and I can show it to you because I read the grant,” Kunstle said.”I suggest we have a business plan so we can see who we are doing business with and whether this is really feasible.”If you’re just talking about having individual trails – people coming out there and riding these trails – I can’t conceive of how little money that will generate to sustain this park. There are several OHV parks that have had to be subsidized substantially by the county they’re in. And I suspect that is what’s going to happen with this one.””If we elect to expand the single-track trail system to another type of activity, in my opinion that would require us to go back to the BOCC and seek their approval,” Wolken said.Norm Bishop, whose family owns land in Corral Bluffs, described the environment as very fragile.”Once it’s destroyed, once you put 20 miles of trails in there and they are riding up the hills with no supervision, it’s not going to be able to be replaced,” Bishop said.”We’re looking at OHV trails, not motocross,” Wolken said. “The reason we’re hiring an OHV consultant is that individual has a background in developing OHV trails that hopefully can avoid a lot of the erosion issues that have been discussed. We envision that person starting about the first week in May and being literally on site for two to three weeks.”Wolken declined to identify the consultant, saying the contract has not been approved.”We’re going to make every effort over the next six weeks or so to put together as much information as we possibly can and then we’ll have that analyzed by the various boards and commissions we report to,” Wolken said.”We’re due back [before] the Park Advisory Board on June 10, and then to the BOCC, Colorado State Trails and eventually the State Parks Board. They will be the judge of whether we’ve made enough progress to be able to thoroughly analyze the site.”He added that there is a possibility some groups won’t be satisfied with the progress report and could request additional research. Wolken said he wasn’t sure how that would affect the grant.”Certainly, it will not be my decision,” he said. “We will do the best we can to do the analysis, but we have lost two months of what we had planned on or had available to us.”

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