Carbondale’s much-loved trail system on Red Hill is now seeing more than 70,000 visits a year. That’s according to Davis Farrar, a member of the volunteer group, the Red Hill Council. While most of the Red Hill trail system is Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, the council exists to help steward the popular trails.
The council recently circulated a survey to try and learn more about who uses the trails, when, and what users see as priorities. The survey was available online in English and had just under 300 respondents. The last time the group did a survey was in the late 1990s.
The main takeaways — based on responses by survey participants — were: the trails are most popular in the fall; most users visit the trails several times a month; the majority of users live in Carbondale; foot traffic represents the most common activity; slightly fewer than half of the users sometimes bring a dog. The survey identified poop bags/trash as an important issue to address, along with the impact of mud on trails, trail erosion and vegetation damage.
Farrar says that although many survey respondents were interested in trail closures for muddy conditions, it’s a non-starter with the BLM because, “they don’t have the personnel to manage that.” Additionally, Farrar cited the unintentional consequences of trail closures, such as persistent users going around closure gates and furthering erosion problems by going off-trail. The Red Hill Council plans to focus more efforts on educating the public on why using trails when they’re muddy is such a problem. Both hikers and bikers can negatively impact trails if they use them while muddy. Farrar says if you want to use Red Hill trails during mud season, the key is to go out early, while the mud is frozen.
Another priority for the council will be encouraging dog owners to be responsible and always pack out their dog poop bags. Again, Farrar, “[dog poop litter is] not unique to Red Hill. It’s everywhere, and in some places it’s really bad. You know, I would say overall on Red Hill, based on the number of users up there, the dog poop situation could be a lot worse.”
In an interview this spring with Carbondale’s parks and cemeteries supervisor, Russell Sissom, he said that the town orders approximately 200,000 dog bags for the year, to service 35 dog stations around town. In the summer, TOC staff need to empty the dog pots at the Red Hill trailhead four times per week to keep pace.
To learn more about the council and future surveys, or to submit feedback, information can be found at redhillcouncil.org or on the Red Hill Council’s Facebook page. Information about trail conditions can also often be found on the Roaring Fork Trail Conditions Facebook page.