Below, please see the responses from the Fort Collins Natural Areas team to OMBA members’ questions regarding the Foothills Management Plan. Should you have additional questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact OMBA or comment below and we will field & address them!
Responses to Overland Mountain Biking Association Questions Regarding the Foothills Management Plan Update – May 30, 2019
Question: Reducing access will push users to other local trails that are very crowded as well. Has the City discussed what impacts this will have to other local agencies and trails? What are the anticipated outcomes of this? Can we expect other agencies to also begin taking away access for cyclists?
Response: The only access reducing measure the City considered for the Foothills Plan is alternating days of use at Maxwell Natural Area. The City has decided not to utilize that management tactic based on user data that indicates high satisfaction and lack of support from the public. The City is unaware of efforts by other agencies to reduce access.
Question: Why were the onsite surveys done at times that clearly missed the heaviest concentration of use? This is equivalent to doing a traffic study on College Ave but not looking at all at 7-9am or 4-6pm.
Response: Please see the online FAQ at: https://www.fcgov.com/naturalareas/foothills-plan
Question: Do these numbers show the total percentage of actual users observed, or is this the percentage of users who completed the survey?
Response: Visitor use in the Foothills natural areas can be analyzed both in terms of statistically significant on-site intercept surveys and a trail counter study employing multiple traffic counting devices. Percentages of use correlate closely in both data sets.
Question: There are multiple entry/exit points at lower Maxwell…were counters in place at both? Same with upper Maxwell?
Response: The Foothills trail counter study included 18 trail counting devices collecting visitor data over the course of 24 months. At Maxwell Natural Area, a set of counters (infrared and magnetometer) was at the junction of the Foothills Trail and the ditch road, and at the top of Maxwell, on the border with CSU’s property (now part of Maxwell).
Counters were not deployed at Maxwell’s Ponds/Banyan Court entrance due to concern over frequent maintenance vehicle traffic (both Utilities and Natural Areas) interfering with counts. When a magnetometer (bike) counter is set to the detection sensitivity for mountain bikes, the passage of the larger mass of a motor vehicle will create “spikes” in the data set and interfere with accuracy. The counter instead was placed in the interior of the site where visitor speeds were more consistent and motor vehicles would not interfere with counts.
Question: Many, if not most, cyclists loop the Foothills Trail so only pass the counter once, while most hikers/runners do out-and-back and cross the counter twice. What was done to account for this?
Response: There are multiple access points and loops that can be traveled in either direction along the 10-mile length of the Foothills trail. To aid with this complexity, multiple trail counters were deployed along the trail’s length to measure visitor use and use types. All manufacturer specifications and recommendations were followed to ensure accuracy of the counters. Trail counter data closely correlates with data collected through statistically significant on-site intercept surveys.
Question: Visitor survey shows many complaints about crowding, yet the City only lists 2 questions regarding adding new trails – 1 proposed by Overland and 1 very short interpretive loop. Why is the City not addressing the actual issue of crowding at ALL properties…not enough trails for the number of users?
Response: The intercept survey yielded a relatively small percentage of complaints regarding crowding (p.iv-v, and Appendix A). The Foothills Plan website and materials explain that the City will be exploring at least four visitor use proposals in the future (once the opportunities are feasible). These connections will be explored:
▪ Maxwell Natural Area to Reservoir Ridge Natural Area
▪ Pineridge Natural Area to Centennial Drive
▪ Cathy Fromme Prairie Natural Area to Coyote Ridge Natural Area
▪ Reservoir Ridge Natural Area to the Poudre Trail
Question: Why is user conflict being singled out as the problem when the actual problem is crowding?
Response: Perceived crowding and user conflict were analyzed in the intercept study.
Question: Can the City explain how putting more users on fewer trails over half as many days is a solution to the crowding issue?
Response: The City is not considering fewer trails. Alternating days of use can be a successful management tactic and is used by other land management agencies. However, as noted in the first response, the City is no longer considering it for Maxwell Natural Area.
Question: Why is there no mention at all of broader connectivity of trails since this is a goal in all other City plans?
Response: Broader connectivity is a goal in the Natural Areas Master Plan (p.86, “Maintain a natural trail system that supports a variety of recreational experiences, while minimizing user conflicts and negative impacts on conservation values, and improve trail sustainability and connectivity”), and will be included in the goals for the Foothills Plan.
Natural Areas and partnering agencies continually work towards trail connectivity and there are many successful examples. An upcoming connection is between Coyote Ridge Natural Area and Loveland’s Prairie Ridge Natural Area, expected by the end of 2019.
Question: Since nearly all cyclists riding Maxwell are doing so to also ride ‘Shoreline’ and other area trails, the City is essentially imposing restrictions and reducing access to many more miles than simply the Maxwell Trail. Why is this not being made public? Or has that been considered?
Response: No restrictions have been imposed or planned.
Question: These decisions will have a major impact on tens of thousands of people and are seemingly being done in direct opposition to the survey data that was collected. Why?
Response: No decisions have been made and the intercept surveys indicate that a large majority of users are satisfied with their Foothills experience.
Question: What are the complete process steps and timeline for the plan update?
Response: Fall 2018- Staff team formed o Winter 2019- Discovery phase (site visits, information gathering, goals and objectives) o Spring 2019- Public engagement o Summer 2019 – Public feedback on draft plan o Fall 2019- Administrative adoption of plan
Question: Why do each of these properties need to be managed the same/as one? Coyote Ridge is a much different place than Maxwell or Pineridge. Why not manage one as having a larger recreation purpose and one as having a larger conservation purpose?
Response: The foothills sites are grouped together for management planning as their ecological setting is similar. At the same time each site is managed for its unique features and situation.
Question: We are being presented with broad, general guidelines about habitat fragmentation and ecological impacts…what are the real impacts we are looking at in each specific area?
Response: More specific information will be available as staff completes various analyses.
Question: How can the City say that wildlife and habitat fragmentation are the major issues in this area yet at the same time allow 700-800 new homes to be built in this immediate area…on top of the existing homes, man-made reservoir and dams already there?
Response: The Natural Areas Department, to the extent possible, manages its properties to limit fragmentation. The Foothills sites represent an interesting, biodiverse, and valuable reservoir of habitat adjacent to other land uses. The Department does not control adjoining land uses and works within existing legal and administrative systems to influence land use to the extent possible.
Question: How was CPW involved in this evaluation of wildlife impacts?
Response: Colorado Parks and Wildlife has been consulted in the process of developing the plan and will be further engaged as the plan is drafted.
Question: What is the process for future decisions not directly identified in this plan update? Are they purely staff decisions? What will the public input process look like? Will they need to be public-driven proposals? Require Council approval?
Response: As opportunities arise, for example additional trail connections, there will be opportunities for the public to comment and participate in the planning process. Final management decisions are made by Natural Areas.