“Since when is public access part of the Crystal Valley Environmental Protection Association [CVEPA] mission?” An old friend asked me this recently. It is certainly a valid question, and one that has been discussed at length amongst our board.
Whenever we leave our homes to recreate on public lands — or go anywhere for that matter — we bear the onus of our environmental impact. Without making ourselves crazy or living in a bubble, we weigh whether we can take the bus or bike, drive a Prius or an F-350 truck (if we even have those choices) and whether we hike, ski or seek wildflowers locally, or if we drive for three hours. Are we disturbing wintering elk or nesting waterfowl as we seek the road less traveled?
CVEPA has a strong belief that the environment is not limited to wild animals or designated wilderness areas. The human component of the environment is respected and must be respectful. As we the public go forward in search of what enriches and feeds “the wild” in us, can we exercise the restraint necessary to protect and preserve our natural environment?
CVEPA involvement in public access is a timely question given that the Redstone to McClure Pass Trail just received preliminary authorization from the U.S. Forest Service. The CVEPA board discussed unregulated human access versus the proposed seasonal closure to protect ungulate habitat, the intrusion of man and canine in a secluded area and the value of restoring the continuity of the historic route with the specter of trail proliferation in a sensitive area. The pros and cons of the trail development were debated by the board before we voted to narrowly lend our conditional support.
Public access is no simple question when we look locally at entry’s cause and effect. The access to Filoha Meadows Nature Preserve (Dorais Way or the Wildrose Trail) has been closed by neighbors, illegally we believe. The right of way to this historic route will now be decided by a judge.
The Filoha public access agreement was a long and sometimes emotional public process in which CVEPA was involved. CVEPA remains committed to this tempered access as a public amenity and a privilege. We support the efforts of Pitkin County in reopening the road. Unfettered year-round access is not appropriate with respect to wintering wildlife, nor should access on the age-old road be only for the financially privileged. Both reasons justify CVEPA’s scrutiny.
A recent petition for access through the reclaimed Coal Basin mining area is an incredibly complex example of the sensitivity of access to public lands. The Coal Basin Methane Group seeks access to the Basin in order to ascertain locations and quantities of escaping methane with the ultimate aspiration of mitigating the effects of the prolific gas. Evaluating the balance between mitigating the climate-threatening methane and protecting the restored land, water and wildlife habitat, this could not be more in-line with CVEPA’s ethos.
The mission statement of “protection and preservation of the natural environment and its scenic resources; responsible enjoyment and protection and restoration of the natural environment” was carefully articulated in the recently-renewed mission statement of CVEPA.
As our valley grows in popularity and population at an unprecedented rate, the onus is clearly on us personally, as a community and as members of CVEPA, the only organization solely dedicated to the environmental defense of the Crystal Valley, to engage in issues of public access. Scenic values are important to us all, but it is naive to think that our naturalist soul could be fulfilled from the window of an automobile. Public access to public land is not just a right but it is a privilege that comes with responsibility.
“We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people have ever received and each one of us must do his part if we wish to show the nation is worthy of its good fortune.”
To learn more about CVEPA and to support our mission, visit cvepa.org
It takes community support to keep The Sopris Sun shining.