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A coalition of local leaders in outdoor recreation has come together to develop a Chaffee County Trails System and Conservation Plan. The goal is to create a community-driven strategic plan for conserving natural resources while also providing a spectrum of sustainable, trail-based outdoor recreation experiences across all lands countywide.

The coalition members are Salida Mountain Trails (SMT); Buena Vista Singletrack Coalition (BVSC); National Forest Foundation (NFF); Envision Chaffee County; and a representative for outfitters and guides.

The plan will encompass the entire trails system, including trailheads, trail corridors and infrastructure — such as parking, restrooms and pet waste stations.

First, the plan will assess and prioritize improvements to the 400 miles of current, designated trails in Chaffee County. From there, it will identify opportunities for new trails and related infrastructure to address growth in outdoor recreation and visitation in ways that retain the exceptional forests, waters and wildlife that make Chaffee County such a special place to live and visit.

“This collaborative process will result in a remarkable trail network right-sized to our community,” said SMT Executive Director Jon Terbush. “By holistically planning new trails and improvements to existing ones, we can ensure the entire system will be sustainably managed to improve user experience and protect natural resource health.”

The process will coordinate with federal land management agencies and local governments, and be driven by community input. Coalition partners will convene a working group of stakeholders and provide opportunities for public comment throughout the process.

“BVSC sees the plan as an opportunity and the means to cooperatively connect existing trails, which will enable non-motorized exploration of Chaffee County while minimizing impacts to agricultural lands and wildlife,” said BVSC Board Chair Kelly Collins.

Coalition partners provided seed money to launch the effort, and are now securing additional funding to complete the multi-year planning process.

Chaffee Recreation Council Member Chuck Cichowitz, a long-time backcountry outfitter in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness, will represent outfitters and guides in the partnership.

Once completed, the Trails System and Conservation Plan is expected to be added to the Chaffee County Outdoor Recreation Management Plan, which was developed by the Envision Recreation in Balance program and approved by the County Planning Commission in 2021.

“We will deliver a plan that balances growing use of our exceptional trails with the beautiful wildlife, rural landscapes and clean waters that make Chaffee County so very special,” said Envision Co-lead Cindy Williams.

Readers who would like to be kept up to date on the activities should send a note of interest to info@envisionchaffeecounty.org.

Coalition Partners:

  • Salida Mountain Trails is committed to building and maintaining sustainable, non-motorized, multi-user trails on public lands near the city of Salida.
  • Buena Vista Singletrack Coalition creates and maintains sustainable, multiuser trails in and around BV.
  • The National Forest Foundation, with some staff based in Salida and office in Salida, has worked in Colorado for more than 20 years. It is chartered by Congress to bring people together to restore and enhance National Forests and Grasslands.
  • Envision Chaffee County is a community planning initiative that facilitates implementing the Chaffee County Outdoor Recreation Management Plan.