A master plan for a popular and controversial outdoor hub in Colorado Springs has stalled.
That’s partly due to “staffing changes,” said Brian Bobeck, El Paso County park operations division manager. He has been among those changes, having taken the lead on Jones Park earlier this year. There have also been organizational changes at Altitude Land Consultants, which the county contracted to help plot the future of the 1,200-acre parcel in the Springs’ southwest mountains.
The consultant launched the job two years ago by calling a meeting with concerned parties, including mountain bikers and motorcyclists who prize the 5-mile network. Last summer, new trail proposals were presented to the wider public.
But progress has been “pretty slow,” said Bobeck, noting that he hoped that a draft master plan, a guiding document for Jones Park’s next decade, could be published for public review by the end of the year.
“The goal was to have this wrapped up a month or two ago,” Bobeck said. “But this isn’t a master plan for Bear Creek Regional Park or one of our other parks in the county parks system. It’s got a lot more to it.”
It’s got remoteness, for one, located high and deep in the woods popularly reached from North Cheyenne Canon Park. While El Paso County took charge of the land in 2015, it’s got multiple agencies providing oversight — local and federal government as well as Palmer Land Trust, which holds a conservation easement on the property. And it’s got a fish listed on the endangered species list.
Discovery of the greenback cutthroat trout and ensuing lawsuit threats from environmentalists prompted the U.S. Forest Service in recent years to re-route trails around the Bear Creek watershed, notably Trail 667, otherwise known as Cap’n Jacks. Since being finished in 2017, that trail’s reconfiguration has caught harsh criticism — from cyclists who felt stripped of a previously favorite ride and also from environmentalists, who’ve noted erosion potentially damaging to the watershed.
The county has overseen continued maintenance of the trail. In the master plan, “one of the main focuses will be the existing 667 trail,” Bobeck said. “What can we do to improve and sustain that better?”
As for new trails, “we can’t just say we’re gonna build a trail from point A to point B because we want a trail there,” Bobeck said. “We’ve got to make sure we’re following suit and being a good land manager.”
Claiming to safeguard the fish habitat while also preventing the future proliferation of “social” or “rogue” trails, Altitude Land Consultants previously proposed a blueprint detailing 8 miles of trail. One was mapped to the top of Kineo Mountain, where foot-trampled fall lines have formed. Another was envisioned to replace unauthorized paths to Loud’s Cabin. Another was said to connect a desired loop.
Bobeck declined to say which, if any, trails were under consideration.
Jim Bensberg said he didn’t see a need to hurry on a master plan.
“Where we are right now is a good place,” he said, speaking for Colorado Motorcycle Trail Riders Association, the nonprofit listed as official caretaker of Jones Park trails. “We’ve always said less is more when it comes to the trail system. Not everywhere is designed to be Disneyland.”
Mountain biking advocate Cory Sutela, executive director of Medicine Wheel, didn’t align with the less-is-more philosophy.
“If there’s a trail we know is desired by users and will help support the resource, there’s a lot of passionate groups willing to work on the problem,” he said.
But Sutela agreed there should be no rush on Jones Park’s master plan. “I’d rather have it done right than fast,” he said.