Hatched by three biking senators in the back row of a day-long budget hearing, the 100-mile Bailey Hundo race has blossomed in its first three years, giving rise to a new effort to develop a system of mountain-biking trails that could transform the Platte Canyon economy. "We want to make Bailey the Front Range Moab," said Chris Romer, who as a Colorado senator joined Sens. Greg Brophy and Dan Gibbs in creating the bike race, which this year raised $100,000 for several charities. The success of the race has sparked an effort to develop mountain-biking and hiking trails connecting Bailey to the Colorado Trail and Buffalo Creek trail network that surrounds — yet does not touch — the town.
The idea is that connectivity — imagine pedaling single-track from Boulder to Bailey and beyond — will establish the town as a destination, not unlike western Colorado's Fruita, which redefined itself with knobby-tired trail development. "Bailey is a missed opportunity right now. It's on the highway, just down from Denver, but there's no way to pedal from town to all the trails that surround it," said Jason Bertolacci, president of the Colorado Mountain Bike Association, or COMBA, which has joined Romer in peddling the Bailey Trails proposal. The hurdles are huge: negotiating with the Forest Service for trail development on public land, securing approval from private landowners and tweaking the state's liability laws to assuage concerns from those landowners. Only a few miles southeast of Bailey, the Forest Service and COMBA have forged a unique partnership in the development of several new trail networks in the Buffalo Creek burn area.The recent development of the Raspberry Ridge and expert Blackjack trails in the Buffalo Creek area demonstrate a new approach, with hundreds of volunteers developing, building and maintaining trails on public lands after intensive federal review. "We've found a good balance of developing trails that get people excited about riding while taking some of the management burden off the Forest Service," said Bertolacci, whose work helped the recent approval of a 10-mile loop off the Colorado Trail near Buffalo Creek's Little Scraggy Peak. The relationship with mountain bikers and the Forest Service helps set the tone for the sweeping push to connect those Buffalo Creek trails with Kenosha Pass, potentially bypassing Lost Creek Wilderness, where mountain bikes are not allowed.
The plan — still preliminary, with no precise plans for trails other than a wish list that includes developing 140 miles of new single-track, including trails along long-dormant narrow-gauge railroad grades around Bailey — was recently floated to area business leaders. "Our message right now is 'Let's claim an opportunity to build an economic engine,' " said Shane Kinkennon, who in the past month has presented the plan to business leaders, area chambers and homeowner associations. "People are eager. They want to learn more." Anything that sparks economic activity in the Platte Canyon is something to study, said Marcel Flukiger, owner of the Aspen Peak Cellars Winery and president of the Platte Canyon Area Chamber of Commerce. "Our first impression was definitely that this could be something amazing for the area," he said. "If we could make this a hub, for people to come and get out of the city, ... it would be amazing what it could do for our local businesses and economy."
One major task is adjusting the state's liability laws so landowners would not risk injury lawsuits if they open their land to mountain biking and hiking. It's a formidable requirement, but the recent formation of the Outdoor Alliance Colorado, uniting several groups such as the Colorado Mountain Club and COMBA alongside six national human-powered-recreation groups, gives the effort some muscle. "When we start working with these larger groups," Bertolacci said, "some of the larger problems get smaller."
By Jason Blevins of The Denver Post
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