Thursday, Montrose County and outdoor enthusiasts got the news they’d been hoping for: The Bureau of Land Management issued a decision to lease about 44 acres of public land to Montrose County, which will enable the county to develop the long-hoped for Shavano Gateway Recreation Area.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Deputy County Manager Jon Waschbusch said. “ … It’s been a ride to get to this point.”
The lease decision will help the county establish a formal trailhead for the Montrose side of the 160-mile Rimrocker Trail, as well as provide about 20 miles of single-track trails adjacent to the recreation area, for mountain bikes, ATVs and non-motorized travel, plus, ultimately, an off-highway vehicle training and obstacle course and infrastructure such as picnic tables.
Efforts between the county, the BLM, Western Slope 4 Wheelers, Back Country 4x4s, Uncompahgre Valley Trail Riders, Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Association (COPMOBA) and others began in 2015.
“This decision supports our commitment to being a good neighbor,” Greg Larson, field manager for the BLM’s Uncompahgre Field Office, in the BLM’s announcement of the lease.
“We will continue to provide diverse recreation opportunities and improve access to public land while supporting the social and economic development of the area.”
The BLM may also ultimately convey the 44 acres to Montrose County under a federal law that allows for such transfers after a successful lease period.
The recreation area, located within the BLM’s Dry Creek Travel Management Plan, would be for an off-highway vehicle training and obstacle course, restrooms, picnic areas and other infrastructure, and a more formal parking area for those looking to access the West End’s Rimrocker Trail from the Montrose side.
The site could also host special events, such as mountain biking races or other types of non-motorized competitions.
Montrose County is working through additional processes to finalize conveyance of the ground, Waschbusch said.
“The big news from the decision today is that the bike trail portion, non-motorized portions, we can now moved forward with,” he said.
The county is coordinating with COPMOBA for grants that will help pay for the actual trails.
The recreation area will serve as access from the Montrose side to the Rimrocker Trail, which is billed as “Montrose to Moab” and stretches through the redrock canyons of the West End.
“Longterm, there will be that parking and staging area. That same area will be available to folks for day use,” Waschbusch said.
“It gives us a place to host (non-motorized) events — mountain bike races and the high school could host meets out there. Now Montrose could be a destination for races and things like that, which is really exciting,” he added.
“The approval of this trail system comes after several years of collaborative work between the Montrose-Uncompahgre Trails chapter of COPMOBA, the BLM, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Montrose County and OHV community,” said Renata Raziano, president of the MUT chapter of COPMOBA, in a county news release.
“We are excited to bring a high quality, professionally designed, non-motorized trail system to Montrose. Having this trail system so close to town will be a great amenity for the community for years to come.”
There is a hunger for more single-track trails in the region, as shown by the heavy use of the Buzzard Gulch system, Waschbusch said.
Off-highway vehicle trail riders also welcomed the news as a win-win for multiple uses.
“This project will be an asset to both the motorized and non-motorized community,” Rich Jakino, president of the Uncompahgre Trail Riders ATV Club, said, also in the county news release.
“The club has been proud to be a part of this process, as it will help increase ATV accessibility on the Uncompahgre Plateau and surrounding recreation areas.”
The OHV-training and obstacle course is part of long-range plans; this will provide a spot to test skills and equipment before heading into the backcountry.
“That all fits together really well. That will ultimately serve the mountain bike trail system and the Rimrocker,” Waschbusch said.
“I’m pretty stoked on this one.”
He said the county is proud to have coordinated the efforts of many partners.
“It adds to the offerings in Montrose,” Waschbusch said.
Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer.