Tag Archives: Doudy Draw

FOBOS Members Join WRV for Social Trail Restoration

Mary McQuiston and others on FOBOS trail project
Mary McQuiston and others on FOBOS trail project

There are several hundred miles of trails on city open space not developed by OSMP and not maintained as part of the designated trail system. Some of these “social” trails are being closed and the land restored as part of the trail study area process.

Joe Mantione working Spring Brook
Joe Mantione working Spring Brook

On Saturday, April 19th FOBOS’ members spent the day helping to restore undesignated trails that had developed in the Doudy Draw area. One of the trails went through sensitive riparian lands immediately adjacent to Spring Brook. The other went up a steep hillside above Lindsay Pond.

macdonnell_trail_restoration
Larry MacDonnell

The process involved roughing the surface of dirt, sprinkling seeds of native grasses and plants, and covering the seeded dirt with dead grasses raked from adjacent lands. Fences were built to discourage travel into the areas, and signs were posted explaining what had been done.

WIldlands Restoration Volunteers
WIldlands Restoration Volunteers

The project was organized by Wildlands Restoration Volunteers. This remarkable nonprofit organizes volunteers to participate in land and water restoration activities in Boulder County and beyond.

Management for the Eldorado Mountain/Doudy Draw area

Comments by Friends of Boulder Open Space
July 12, 2008

New trails coming to the magnificent Eldorado Mountain/Doudy Draw area
Current concerns and focus for FOBOS are to ensure that appropriate weight is given to conservation of the extraordinary natural resources in the Eldorado Mountain/Doudy Draw (EM/DD) area in the face of the proliferation of new trails there. With the new trails, scheduled for opening in autumn 2008, there will be a total of 13.6 trail-miles for all uses in the Natural Area. The Habitat Conservation Area will have a remote 1.8-mile trail for foot-travel and equestrians and a 0.5-mile climbing access trail. All trails, both old and new, in the Natural Area will be used for mountain biking.

In routing the trails, the OSMP Department has mostly followed routes drawn up by the bike/equestrian/dog user groups, with inadequate consideration for conserving natural resources. The mandate for this conservation priority has been part of the charter for both Boulder Mountain Parks and for the Open Space program from their inceptions to today under the Visitor Master Plan. FOBOS, concerned that the Department was not fulfilling the Community’s responsibility to our children and grandchildren to pass these public lands on to them in a healthy, sustainable state, has been working since last year to influence trail routing and management of these areas.

FOBOS maintains that long segments of the new trails have been very poorly located. We have documented that some trail sections go through extraordinarily diverse native grasslands, one of which includes an unusual, relict plant community, and also through critical wildlife habitat. FOBOS further raised the issue that long segments of trails would traverse potentially unstable hillslopes of shale. Because of the efforts by citizens interested in conservation, planned trail routing through one sensitive area (lower Spring Brook) was avoided, and the Goshawk Ridge trail was slightly modified to avoid a wet meadow, a section close to the upper Spring Brooks drainage, and a mountain lion kill site. Otherwise, no changes to trail routing have resulted from these.

With many more trails in ecologically sensitive areas of the EM/DD area, FOBOS has communicated to OSMP the critical need for a detailed and effective management plan that will focus on conservation of the resources while allowing public access and include: (1) baseline monitoring of the existing plant communities and wildlife populations; (2) expectations for maintenance or restoration of specific, desirable ecosystem conditions; (3) specific descriptions of unacceptable impacts; (4) and ranges of possible management actions in response to observed ecological changes and interactions among users.

Trail Study Area Plan for Eldorado Mountain/Doudy Draw
The EM/DD plan, completed in December 2006, contained some promising commitments:

  • “A detailed long-term monitoring plan with sufficient funding will be developed to guide TSA plan implementation. As part of this monitoring plan, baseline information will be collected where needed and monitoring criteria to measure success in implementing plan goals will be developed.”
  • “To provide and maintain acceptable conditions for natural and cultural resources and for the visitor experience, OSMP will devote sufficient management resources to enforce regulations dealing with seasonal and permanent visitor access closures, use restrictions for specific recreational activities, and on-trail, on-leash, and no-dog requirements. Adjustment of enforcement activities will occur over time, as needs change and levels of visitor compliance evolve.”
  • “Monitoring will be used to determine the effectiveness of management strategies to improve conditions where necessary and maintain acceptable conditions elsewhere. Measuring the effectiveness of strategies involves several steps including identifying the range of acceptable conditions, selecting indicators that will be measured, developing protocols for measuring those indicators, and then implementing the monitoring on the ground. Effectiveness monitoring often requires the collection of baseline data to formally document existing conditions before a strategy is put into action. Monitoring provides the Open Space and Mountain Parks Department with information not only to assess how well the TSA plan strategies are working, but also to refine the nature, location, or extent of implementation.”
  • And many other specific promises on these topics.

Thus the EM/DD TSA plan and Visitor Master Plan call for management that will meaningfully conserve natural resources and will determine when recreational use is causing significant impacts. Reasonable implementation of the TSA plan requires that certain critical management actions be completed before the trails are opened.

Why the current concern? Shortcomings in TSA implementation

The flurry of planning for new trail construction this year has appropriately included detailed plans, contracting documents, and clear schedules for both trail building and physical trail specifications.

Unfortunately, the same attention to detail has not emerged in connection with much of the planning on monitoring, adaptive management, staffing, standards, or staff responsibilities with regard to natural resources, user compliance with expected behavior, possible user conflicts (e.g., bike-hiker-equestrian issues), management alternatives for dealing with problems, etc.

The trails that are planned in the EM/DD area will radically change the recreational use of the area and the impact on resources. This segment of OSMP lands has historically been one of the least used and most pristine in the system, with plant communities that are unique not just in the OSMP system, but in the world, and ecologically important wildlife refugia. The promises in the TSA plan to protect and manage these treasures are critical.

Inexplicably, the promised plans to ensure adequate resource management seem, at present, to be lagging far behind the planning for trail construction.

FOBOS Responses

FOBOS has met several times with OSMP staff to express concerns about planning in these areas, and the lack of transparency in the process.

In May, we presented a set of documents to OSMP staff and the Open Space Board of Trustees that reflected our concerns and that gave a detailed set of examples of how the appropriate monitoring, planning, and management alternatives for action could be organized. We used the Limits of Acceptable Change (LAC) model that has been widely adopted by land management agencies in the U.S. and around the world, and has even been used by OSMP to set forth options for a segment of the new Goshawk trail. This model was originally developed by the U.S. Forest Service in the 1980s, and it is now used by every Federal land-management agency, as well as many local and state ones. The documents FOBOS presented included a score of specific criteria and standards, every one taken directly from either the Visitor Master Plan or the EM/DD TSA Plan. In our examples we included a decision-tree matrix that showed management responses when objectives were not met, or measured changes were not within the specified acceptable limits. The reason for the widespread adoption of the LAC model by land managers is that it provides a method to objectively evaluate the issues, take appropriate action, and manage public expectations.

The answers received from the Department lacked substance. The LAC model was deemed too complex for implementation, but no alternatives were forthcoming.

In mid June, staff created a LAC-type format for dogs in the Spring Brook area. They have put forth a list of 13 things that will be monitored — and have agreed to publicly announce and discuss standards and indicators for assessing (a) compliance with regulations on trails in the Spring Brook area and (b) sustainability of equestrian use of the Goshawk Ridge Trail. They have not yet embraced a LAC-type format or similar process for defining acceptable impacts for wildlife/natural resources, indicating that to do so would be very difficult.

As a result, at the June Board of Trustees meeting, FOBOS presented a different critique of the planning, when we emphasized the lack of documentation or any publicly revealed specifics for land management. We stressed the importance of actual detailed planning, as promised in the TSA plan.

Throughout this process, we have emphasized the need for education, a public process, and the importance of transparency. Users need to know what is expected of them, what circumstances might result in access restrictions, and what will be measured.

Conclusions

Implementation of the EM/DD trails plan requires a detailed adaptive management plan made available to the public before trails are built. To protect the resources, as mandated by the City Charter and the Visitor Master Plan, actions may have to be taken that are based on the data gathered in monitoring and on prior knowledge. A range of possible management actions in response to observed change must be specified for everyone to understand so that later conflict may be avoided.

Recommendations for El Dorado-Doudy Draw TSA Trail Alignment from FOBOS and the Science Advisory Group*

Synthesize and Supplement Baseline Data
For this TSA, an “Inventory Report” (2/24/06) described the natural, cultural, and agricultural resources, and numerous maps have been prepared. To supplement these and provide the kind of specific, integrated information that will enable the staff and public to assess the proposed alignment of trails, we recommend two things: (1) synthesis and integration of all existing data, and (2) addition of key data needed to fill gaps and locate trails in a way that will minimize impacts. An initial list of recommended natural resource data is attached (A). Considerations for trail exclusions are provided in attachment B.

Create Interactive Visual Displays
The baseline data, described above, needs to be stored in an electronic relational database with location tags and linked to a GIS display that allows staff, and eventually the public, to interactively select and display various options and see the multiple resource variables that will be impacted or not, and identify trail alignments that maximize the conservation of resources. Such visualizations have proven to be extremely valuable in educating lay audiences and providing easy-to-understand options/tradeoffs for decision-making.

Design the Monitoring Plan
To streamline the design and reduce staff time required, we recommend using well-developed protocols for monitoring and assessment, such as those developed by the Northern Colorado Plateau Group for the National Park Service (more), and including multiple permanent sites along trails and at control sites for measuring soil nitrogen and plant composition. Protocols to be used and the ongoing monitoring plan must be carefully defined, fully funded and sustained. An initial list of items we recommend as essential in the monitoring plan is attached (C & D). The monitoring plan would be linked to criteria that would trigger trail closure when impacts are unacceptable. An initial list of criteria tied to possible trail closure also is attached (E).

Test An Enhanced Process
By starting now, we could use the above options to shift the public participation process from months of meetings filled with verbal dueling to a consensus-building process based on easily understood information that emphasizes conservation of resources and recreational access while providing the basis for adaptive management.

Use Interpretative Displays
Consider development of strategically placed, engaging interpretative displays that will convey the fragility and/or uniqueness of this area, species of interest, and the rationale for any use restrictions.

Action Items:

  • Hire a consultant to facilitate the synthesis of data into a relational database with location tags to facilitate integrated data displays, identify data gaps and subsequent acquisition plans, and assist the IT/mapping staff in the preparation of interactive visual displays.
  • List the expected losses to open space natural resource values for having chosen to build and operate each proposed trail alignment and use these to guide the development of the monitoring plan. The clear and realistic articulation of the sacrifice of some part of open space holdings to satisfy the need to meet recreational demands sets up an open accounting procedure.

Attachments

A. Natural Resource Data – an initial list

  1. Elk migration routes and wintering areas.
  2. Black bear heavy use areas.
  3. Prairie dog colonies.
  4. Preble’s jumping mouse habitat.
  5. Other mammals on the Colorado Natural Heritage Program list
  6. Goshawk and other accipiter nest sites.
  7. Golden eagle, prairie falcon, and peregrine falcon nest sites.
  8. Flammulated owl nesting habitat.
  9. Shrub-nesting bird habitat.
  10. Wild turkey roosts and prime foraging areas.
  11. Plant communities and ecotones that serve as important habitat (e.g., native grass-forest interface as deer habitat).
  12. Specific extent of plant communities of special concern (especially including Colorado Natural Heritage Program listed plant species, relict old/stable grasslands on ancient pediment soils, and old-growth ponderosa pine forests).
  13. Plant habitat of special concern, such as seeps supporting rare orchids or cliffs supporting rare ferns.

B. Development of Avoidance Criteria for Trail Placement

  1. Areas that that cannot be crossed such as Old Pediment communities or Sites of Sensitive Animal Species Occurrence
  2. Set-back limits for animal habitat features.

C. Fully established and fully funded monitoring protocols must determine:

  1. Impacts of trail use on large mammals, wild turkeys, shrub-nesting birds, and nesting raptors.
  2. Spatial / dimensional impacts of trail use on native plant community species composition and stability, including weed occurrence and spread along and adjacent to trails as well as outward into what previously could have been non-invadable entities.
  3. Rate of compliance with users (hikers, bikers, horses) on-trail & dogs-on-leash requirements
  4. Parameters that indicate conditions of trails over time (e.g., changes in width and depth; sediment erosion and accumulation – where and how much; effects on vegetation and weed invasion (see#2 above); what conditions/impacts should dictate trail closure, either temporary or permanent).

D. Other Monitoring Input:

  1. Trail impact monitoring for plants and vegetation should be accomplished at permanently located sites where the changes in plant community composition at specific distances out from the more or less linear disturbance are observed in a repeatable way. A control at least 5 to 10 m away from the trail should be included for each site. Sample size should be adequate in dimension (e.g. transect length) and number (i.e. replication) to allow avoidance of local aberration as a confounding factor in eventual conclusions.
  2. Monitoring procedure should be efficient enough to help assure its prosecution into the future.
  3. Establishing a soil nitrogen baseline and monitoring this attribute over the years will provide valuable future guidance to other trails and also the behavior of vegetation near existing trails. Nitrogen and water availability are the two variables believed to be greatly affected due to trail installation and use, particularly on a subset of nutrient-limited soils found in or near proposed activities.

E. Development of criteria that would dictate trail closure (temporarily or permanently)

  1. Impacts on native vegetation
  2. Invasion by alien plant species
  3. Impacts on wildlife
  4. Indicators of trail conditions over time (e.g., changes in width and depth; sediment erosion and accumulation)

* Sharon Collinge, David Buckner, Steve Jones, Tim Seastedt