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Trails plan aims to put Silverton on map for mountain biking

Proposed system calls for 30 miles of new routes; seen as economic boon
A plan calls for nearly 30 miles of new trails just north of Silverton, geared toward boosting mountain biking.

In the hopes of making Silverton a mountain biking destination, a new plan has been released that proposes nearly 30 miles of trails, mostly geared toward mountain biking, just outside the small town in the San Juan Mountains.

“As trails are developed and mileage increases, visitation from residents and regional trail users will increase,” the conceptual plan says.

Called “Baker’s Park,” the trails plan is a creation of the Silverton Singletrack Society and the International Mountain Biking Association, an advocacy group for mountain biking. The Silverton Singletrack Society is a regional chapter of the IMBA.

Of the roughly 30 miles of trail, the plan proposes about 24 miles for shared use between mountain bikers and hikers. About 6 miles would be one-way trails specifically for mountain biking. Trails would cover beginner to advanced terrain.

The trails would be located in an area just north of town, known locally as Storm Mountain and Boulder Mountain.

A plan that calls for about 30 miles of new trails, geared toward mountain biking, aims to break ground in spring 2020. Plan creators believe it could take three years to complete.

“Currently, there are fewer than 10 miles of official singletrack trails open to mountain biking in Silverton,” the plan says. “The construction of the Baker’s Park trail system will provide some much-needed mileage of shared-use trails for hikers and bikers, as well as mountain-bike flow trails that are rapidly growing in popularity.”

Calling mountain biking tourism a “sustainable, renewable source of economic development,” the plan highly touts the economic impact boosting mountain biking in Silverton would have on the local economy, which is reliant on tourism.

It estimates same-day visitors spend about $35 a day in a community, while “destination visitors” spend almost $200 a day, mostly on lodging and food.

“While mountain bicyclists are certainly willing to travel to ride, they will only do so if their destination contains a key ingredient: high-quality trails,” the plan says. “These trails must be of a sufficient length and contain a variety of experiences, such as traditional singletrack, bike-optimized singletrack, bike parks and shuttle options. The competition for these destination-quality locations is slowly increasing over time.”

Baker's Park Concept Plan
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The plan would need approval from a handful of agencies, depending on where the trails are located, including the Bureau of Land Management and San Juan County. Requests for comment from these agencies were not immediately returned Monday morning.

In a previous interview, San Juan County Commissioner Scott Fetchenheir expressed concern the proposed biking network would cut through the heart of prime elk habitat.

Silverton Singletrack Society President Klemens Branner said in a news release the project hopes to break ground in spring 2020 and is expected to 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 $1,475,000.

“Our immediate next step is to raise funds through private donations and grants,” Branner said.

Recreational visitation to Silverton has increased in recent years. As future trails are cataloged by the BLM and Forest Service, the town of Silverton has come out with a sort of wish list for future trail systems to be included in the process.

The plan is heavy on mountain biking after the last effort for trail planning in 2004 failed to address the sport.

“We’ve heard a little criticism the plan is mountain-bike heavy, but we’re trying to catch up,” Lisa Branner, the town’s spokeswoman (and wife of Klemens Branner), said in a previous interview. “Mountain bikes are certainly not appropriate on every single trail in San Juan County. But we want to be more mountain bike-friendly and embrace that part of our community and tourism base.”

jromeo@durangoherald.com

Baker's Park Concept Plan (PDF)

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