Waterfall Trail won’t be closed, city says

       Responding to favorable public comments, City Parks will include the Waterfall Trail in its draft of a new master plan for Red Rock Canyon Open Space.

In the wetter summer of 2004, a view from the base of the Section 16 waterfall shows a small stream flowing down. This summer, fed by llitle more than a depleted natural spring, the face has mostly been dry.
Courtesy of the Intemann Trail Committee

       Parks planner Chris Lieber announced the decision Sept. 11 at the Westside Community Center during the last public meeting before the draft is published in mid-October.
       However, in what he termed a “compromise” between use and conservation, the lower portion of the the roughly 1/3-mile trail will have to be relocated from its current route along the side of a narrow forest canyon that a city natural resources consultant has identified as uniquely sensitive to wildlife.
       The trail, built 12 years ago by Intemann Trail Committee (ITC) volunteers when Section 16 was still being leased from the state by El Paso County, includes a turnoff to a roughly 50-foot-high, spring-fed, intermittent waterfall at the head of that canyon.
       The trail also provides a link between the Intemann and Palmer/Red Rock Loop, which are two of the main trails in Section 16. The ITC maintains both the Intemann Trail (which it built in conjunction with the Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado in 1987) and the Waterfall Trail.
       In maps presented earlier in the master-plan process, City Parks and its main consultant, Tapis Associates, had marked the Waterfall Trail for closure. However, after a presentation by Travers Jordan of the ITC at the August 22 meeting, comments from meeting attendees showed 24 in favor of keeping the trail and only 4 opposed. “Keep this wonderful trail,” one person wrote.
       “It was hard for many of you who would like to gain access to that area,” Lieber told those in attendance at the Sept. 11 meeting.
       The 789-acre Red Rock Canyon was originally master-planned in 2004. But with the recent purchases of the neighboring Section 16 (640 acres) and White Acres (45 acres), City Parks officials decided to create a new plan combining all three parcels and giving them all the name “Red Rock Canyon Open Space.”
       A major part of the Sept. 11 meeting was devoted to a presentation by consultants - using aerial photos marked with color overlays for visual aids - about the trails component of the master plan and areas they've marked as environmentally fragile.
       Asked why certain areas like that can allow trails (but not others), natural resource consultant Bill Mangle pointed out that each area has specific individual concerns, some more profound than others. For example, the canyon through which the lower Waterfall Trail section passes, labeled “Cool Conifers” on the map to denote that it's forested, is also a “riparian ecosystem” whose moisture attracts a wide variety of wildlife, he explained.
       Jordan said he thinks the wildlife impacts are minimal and that one reason people like the trail is that its lower section goes through a cool forest area - whereas the planned reroute would move that part to a nearby scrub-oak ridge.
       The city also has insisted on preserving areas of 50 acres or more that have no trails on them now. This was the main argument against a plan, mostly backed by bicyclists, to create a new trail - called the “8130 Trail” because it would gain an altitude of 8,130 feet - in the forested southwest part of the Section 16 acreage.

A presentation by City Parks consultant Tapis Associates at the Red Rock Canyon meeting Sept. 11 included this aerial angle with color overlays depicting natural resource areas that are to remain mostly untouched. The three types are "Cool Conifers" (green), "Sensitive Areas" (purple) and "Habitat Patches over 50 Acres" (yellow). The black marks the boundary of Red Rock, Section 16 and White Acres.
Westside Pioneer photo

       The presentation also discussed several planned changes to the open space's current trail system. Chiefly initiated by the city and its consultants, the goal is to provide links that currently seem to be lacking and to reroute or delete existing trails for reasons of “sustainability,” according to the description by Tapis head Priscilla Marbaker.
       Under city policy, trails that are marked for reroutes, such as the Waterfall Trail and parts of the Intemann, will be allowed to remain open as is until the reroutes are built, Lieber explained.
       One well-known trail that will be partially closed, based on current plans, is Section 16's Parallel Trail. In keeping with its name, it runs for about half a mile parallel to (and a few hundred feet apart from) the Palmer Trail. The upper end would close to avoid redundancy with Palmer and because its layout is “unsustainble,” Marbaker said.
       After the city releases its draft Red Rock master plan, the public will get a chance to review it at an open house Oct. 24, said Sarah Bryarly of City Parks.
       Before the plan is made final, it will also need sign-offs from the city's Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOPS) Committee and Parks Advisory Board, according to the schedule.

Westside Pioneer article