The U.S. Forest Service has delayed a planned logging project involving part of the Grand Mesa Nordic Council trail system for a year and pushed the work back until later in the winter season, resolving some of the concerns the organization had about impacts on cross-country skiers.
A project by Montrose Forest Products, which originally was to involve the use by logging trucks of Scales Lake Road early this winter until Dec. 23, now is planned for February and March of 2023. The company also plans to complete the project in one season.
The project is scheduled for winter because rocks and soft soils on the mesa make operations difficult on bare ground. But Scales Lake Road also is a main artery for the Nordic trail system and one of the first routes that can traditionally be opened for skiing because it’s smoother than many of the routes that require more snow before they can be ready for skiers.
By the time the road is used for logging in February 2023, the Grand Mesa Nordic Council expects to have more snow for temporary alternative routes connecting its Skyway and County Line trail systems than it would have if the road was closed earlier in the season. The Scales Lake Road is a major connector between those two.
Christie Aschwanden, the council’s executive director, said the group is happy with the changes in logging plans.
“I think from the get-go we were really just trying to work together with the Forest Service and Montrose Forest Products to make this work for everyone,” she said. “It’s pleasing to us that that was the final outcome. I wish it wouldn’t have taken so much work to get here, but the important thing is where we ended up,” she said.
The group’s trails are an early season destination that draws people from beyond the Grand Junction area, and last winter 40% of its donations came in December alone.
Group members feared that if not enough snow fell at the start of winter to open trails other than Scales Lake Road, it might not be able to open any trails before Christmas or even later.
It had encouraged its members and other users to contact the Forest Service on the matter, and also reached out to the offices of U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., and state Sen. Kerry Donovan, D-Vail.
Bill Edwards, Grand Valley district ranger for the Forest Service, said changes in the logging plans are positive.
“I think any time that you’ve got passionate folks on all sides, it just takes coming to the table and talking through the issues and understanding each other,” he said.
In Edwards’ case, that involved talking to some extent remotely because he has been busy working on out-of-state wildfires.
He said logging is needed to manage a stand of Engelmann spruce that the Forest Service thins every 30 or 40 years. Thinning results in more age diversity and makes trees more resistant to disease, insects and fire.