Learning from Moab's example

  • A mountain bike rider on the Zippety Doo Dah trail in the North Fruita Desert, now closed to motorized vehicles

    Anne Keller

Note: in the print edition of this issue, this article appears as a sidebar to another news article, "Moab: On the horns of a recreation dilemma."

In western Colorado, the Bureau of Land Management has tackled the issue of dueling recreationists head-on, and come up with a plan that gives each user group room to roam. In April, after almost four years of negotiations with local outdoor enthusiasts, the BLM began implementing a new plan to manage recreation on the 72,000-acre North Fruita Desert, near Grand Junction.

The Fruita area, only an hour and a half from the outdoor-sports mecca of Moab, has become a mountain bike destination in its own right, drawing 50,000 visitors a year from all over the world. When local mountain bikers noticed motorized use increasing a few years back, they began working with the local BLM office to protect bike trails from off-roaders. "We had the example of Moab to learn from," says Troy Rarick, owner of Over the Edge Sports, a mountain bike shop in Fruita. "It’s not that we dislike motorcycles and ATVs, but if they took over our trail system, we’d lose what we had."

According to the new plan, which was released in November, 63,000 acres allow motorized vehicles on designated routes. Another 435-acre plot will be fenced in for "anything goes" cross-country motorized travel. A 5,000-acre mountain-biking zone excludes motorized vehicles, and another 3,500 acres are open only to horseback riders and hikers. "We’re asking a lot of people to make changes in their behavior," says Jim Cooper, transportation planner with the Grand Junction BLM office. "But so far, it’s being very well accepted."

BLM staff are placing signs and creating maps to help visitors understand the new management plan. A 35-unit campground will be completed by August.

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