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Open house seeks peace on Apex Trail

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By The Staff

The Colorado Mountain Bike Association is proposing that open space authorities create a new trail paralleling the existing Apex and Enchanted Forest trails so high-speed users can be separated from low-speed users.

With a dual trail in force, cyclists traveling at downhill speeds would be out of the way of slow-moving pedestrians, equestrians and uphill-traveling cyclists.

Others suggested building more trails to accommodate the growing number of users. Another idea is going to an alternating schedule on weekends, like the one at Centennial Cone, which seems to be working pretty well.

Although the public at large was invited, mostly mountain bikers packed the public meeting room at the Jeffco Open Space Department on June 18 to record on paper their ideas for improving the conditions at Apex Park.

The park comprises 770 acres at the junction of U.S. 40 (Colfax Avenue) and County Road 93 adjacent to Heritage Square. The Apex Trail connects the parking lot on the east with the Lookout Mountain Nature Center nearly 3 miles west and about 2,000 feet higher in altitude.

Jefferson County Open Space solicited ideas from the public because it was concerned about many comments received in recent months about the increases in negative interactions among trail users.

“We just heard enough from a variety of user groups who felt the park just doesn’t work well for them anymore,” said Amy Ito, manager of planning and development. “We have surveyed them twice, and the actual percentage of conflict has gone down. But we got feedback saying people stopped going to the park. It’s sometimes not about a percentage but a combination of art and science.”

Ito said the department had received more than 200 suggestion letters as of June 18.

Some of the mountain bikers at the meeting complained about hard-core cyclists who treat the hill like a ski run and ride from the top to the bottom in their “body armor” at high speed. Instead of cycling up, they just put the bike on a car rack and drive back up to the top.

“I’m here to show support for mountain biking,” said Irina Lewis. “The issue is, we don’t want to lose access because of the tension between so many hikers and bikers. In 12 years there has been a definite increase in the volume of users on the trail.”

Christine Dingman said she hadn’t been involved in any confrontations but had heard about hikers not getting off the trail to make room for bikes or bikes not slowing down. “Sometimes people don’t move over. There are even bikers not yielding to other bikers.”

Dingman said she tries to be a sort of goodwill ambassador and to model good bike behavior. “I feel like I have to be perfect, or we’ll get tossed off the mountain.”

Alternate-use days would be a possibility, but under current conditions, biker Glyn Jones said, he just avoids the park because it’s too crowded.

The problem with the existing regulations is “all the onus is on the mountain bikes,” said Terry Breheny, president of the Colorado Mountain Bike Association.

“Responsibility should be shared. It’s just common sense, like being in a grocery store and walking into someone with a grocery cart. Our objective is to make the rules fair across user groups,” Breheny said.

In a separate initiative, open space is seeking to revise the yielding regulations that cover pedestrians, bikes and equestrians on trails. There should be more consideration of the trail width, because on wide trails yielding isn’t an issue, Breheny said.

Hikers don’t always need to stop on the trail because cyclists approaching them will automatically judge the distance and speed and stop first. “Hikers will yield out of habit, but the spatial distance doesn’t justify it. Hikers should keep going and not have to stop. It’s easier for me just to slow down,” Breheny said.

Meeting participants were invited to converse with Open Space staff and write down their suggestions. Others can submit suggestions over the Internet. The deadline for suggestions is Tuesday, June 30.

The public can send comments and ideas to trock@jeffco.us. Include name, hometown and the word “Apex” in the subject line. Address written comments to APEX, 700 Jefferson County Parkway, Suite 100, Golden CO 80401.

Contact Vicky Gits at 303-350-1042 or vicky@evergreenco.com.

BREAKOUT

Improving the Apex Park experience

The list of potential management options includes the following:

Directional trails: Users travel in the same single direction.

Alternate use days: Hikers and bikes on alternate days, for example

Zones: Safety zones for no passing or dismount zones at trail junctions.

Trail design: Construction of features to either slow traffic, adjust sight lines, create loops or minimize grade.

Single-use trails: Hiker/equestrian only, hiker only or bike only

(Source: Jefferson County Open Space)

The dates are as follows:

June 30: Deadline for suggestions

July 2: 7 p .m. Open Space Advisory Committee presentation of staff findings.

The public can send comments and ideas to trock@jeffco.us. Include name, hometown and the word “Apex” in the subject line. Address written comments to APEX, 700 Jefferson County Parkway, Suite 100, Golden, CO 80401.