BLMtrail networks

The BLM proposes to build trail networks near Hailey and Bellevue.

The Blaine County Commissioners on Tuesday drafted a letter to the Bureau of Land Management expressing support for a plan to create about 80 miles of new trails on public land in the southern Wood River Valley.

The letter will be submitted to the BLM this week.

However, the commissioners stated that if the plan is ultimately adopted, they would like to see a few changes to the proposal. Suggested modifications include keeping seasonal restrictions on off-highway vehicles between Townsend and Colorado gulches, establishing seasonal restrictions on off-highway vehicles between Democrat and Bullion gulches, and implementing seasonal restriction areas in the Sun Peak area, between East Fork and Elkhorn, and between Greenhorn and Timber Gulch.

“Increased recreational opportunities are highly desired, especially in the south valley, and this plan presents many exciting close-to-home opportunities,” the commissioners wrote. “However, the recreational desires of the local community should not come at the expense of significant environmental harm and should maximize the resource concerns.”

The letter states that “motorized use should be away from residential areas,” noting that the county “supports the cities of Hailey and Bellevue’s approach of non-motorized trails adjacent to their communities.”

Trails adjacent to communities should be designated as nonmotorized or nonmechanized to minimize noise and other impacts on neighbors, the commissioners wrote.

Construction of new trails “should be balanced with rehabbing existing social trails and decommissioning old [or] duplicative roads and routes,” the letter states, citing as an example the proposed construction of a new maintained trail in the Patterson Peak area to avoid resource damage from continued use of existing trails.

The letter also suggests that the BLM consider closing the two existing roads in Lee’s Gulch beyond the trailhead proposed in the plan, though that recommendation is not for immediate action.

The commissioners decided Tuesday to add several additional points to their letter before sending it. The updated letter will include a recommendation that the bureau create a trailhead near Ohio Gulch. The commissioners will also add a line to the letter emphasizing the importance of weed mitigation.

A 30-day public comment period to offer input on the plan ends Friday, Aug. 21.

Email the writer: gkauffman@mtexpress.com

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