‘Outlaw’ trails in Red Rock, Section 16
County, City Parks seek to stop culprit
A network of unauthorized trails that a County Parks official calls poorly planned as well as unsafe has been discovered
in Red Rock Canyon Open Space and the neighboring Section 16 park property.|
The enterprising builder - County Parks Planner Rich Havel believes it is just one person - had gone so far as to put up signs where his trails connect with authorized paths, such as the Intemann Trail.
Although the full extent of these “outlaw trails” is not yet documented, county volunteers who have helped track the work estimated to the Westside Pioneer that up to two miles have been constructed.
Havel said he found the apparent perpetrator at work with a shovel in mid-March and told him, “You're creating a disaster here.” He said the man had freely admitted doing the work over the past few months, let his picture be taken and said he would stop. However, he declined to give his name, Havel said.
Havel was not pleased to learn from county volunteers two weeks later that additional trail work evidently had been done since then and that the perpetrator may even have created a campsite in Section 16. After seeing photographic and other evidence of the volunteers' findings, Havel said he was relatively certain it was the same person.
“He said he would stop doing it; apparently he didn't,” Havel said.
Liability is a prime concern for government officials. County Parks leases Section 16 from the state, while Colorado Springs City Parks has responsibility for Red Rock Canyon.
Because a master plan for Red Rock Canyon is not yet complete, no one currently has authorization to build trails there. In Section 16, the only citizen groups with permission to build and maintain trail are the Intemann Trail Committee (ITC) and Section 16 trail volunteers.
Havel said he will be talking to the county attorney to consider stronger steps to stop the construction. He said he also plans to organize volunteer groups to go in and (as far as possible) obliterate the outlaw trails so that unsuspecting hikers don't use them.
Chris Lieber, trails coordinator for Colorado Springs Parks and Recrea-tion, said he plans to work with Havel on the problem.
“We certainly want to see a stop to it,” Lieber said, then added the admittedly “optimistic” hope that the perpetrator would change his ways and “work with us in the master plan process” for Red Rock Canyon.
The trails pass in one place near a road in Red Rock Canyon and connect in three other places with the Intemann Trail in Section 16.
In two places on one of the outlaw trails, knotted ropes were looped around a bush or a rock for steep descents/ascents of 30 or 40 feet. One such section consisted of two ropes tied together with a series of square knots - a method considered unsafe by technical climbers.
A potentially dangerous aspect of the design, according to the volunteers, is that for considerable distances the unauthorized paths follow the bottoms of drainage basins, which are at the mercy of wet weather.
“That's probably a good thing,” one county volunteer commented. “They'll wash out with the first good storm.”
Havel said he had explained this fact to the perpetrator, whose response was that the drainages “are dry now.”
In the interests of safety, county employees and/or volunteers have taken the initiative of putting brush over the access points to the Intemann Trail and removing the signs (which were nailed into trees), in addition to pulling out the ropes. The volunteers have given the ropes and photographic documentation of their findings to Havel.
Although the builder's principal motivation is not known, two of the trails that have been documented stop at or pass next to attractive rock formations.
A short distance from one of the trails, at the base of a formation, a campsite has been established, including a grill, a hatchet, a thick chain, large spikes, a “registration” sign-in and miscellaneous paraphernalia.
The registration consists of a screw-top plastic bottle - labeled “Rocky Flats” - containing a piece of paper and a pencil to let people sign in. As of March 27, four names (first name followed by an initial for the last name) appeared on the paper, including comments such as “great spot” and “very cool trail.”
The volunteers said they added their own tongue-in-cheek “sign-in” note: “County Parks Department - Very interesting.”
The campsite had no trash or betrayed signs of anyone living there.
It appears that hand tools were primarily used for the trail work, although it's possible some type of battery- or gas-operated power tool was used to trim a two to three-foot-wide swath of grass across a meadow in Section 16 for a “link” to Red Rock Canyon, Havel and volunteers said.
In numerous places on the trails, limbs were sawed away on conifers - not close to the trunk as is common for safety and environmental reasons - or small trees were simply topped off.
The county volunteers identified other poor trail-building practices:
· shallow tread, which encourages vegetation to grow back in quickly.
· steep backwalls, which are prone to caving in.
· “false” edges on sidehills, where loose dirt that's piled up to widen the trail edge could give way when stepped on.
One of the outlaw trails makes use of a 500-foot, former Intemann section which the ITC had deemed partially unsafe and blocked off for revegetation during a reroute project several years ago, a committee member said.
To make the old trail passable, the outlaw builders evidently pulled away the blocking brush and lopped back bushes that had been growing up over the section. Volunteers have restored the brush so this section is again blocked off.
Westside Pioneer article