Forest Service battles small fire on Vasquez Ridge near Winter Park | SkyHiNews.com

Forest Service battles small fire on Vasquez Ridge near Winter Park

Firefighters with the U.S. Forest Service declared a small fire on Vasquez Ridge contained Tuesday evening. The fire, located up a dirt road near the southwest end of Little Vasquez Road, grew to be a bit more than 50 feet by 100 feet in size, said Reid Armstrong, spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service's Suphur Ranger District. The USFS used helicopter support to douse the fire because it was so inaccessible, Armstrong said. Officials believe the fire was human caused, though the USFS is still investigating, Armstrong said. No structures were damaged during the fire, which occurred in an area where there had been a hazardous fuels reduction project completed in 2012, which Armstrong said prevented the fire from getting out of hand. Though the fire danger was moderate on Tuesday, Armstrong said early rains have fostered lots of light brush, and a drying trend over the last two weeks has seen much of that light fuel begin to dry. "There is potential out there for a fire to get going, whether it's a lightning strike or it's human caused," Armstrong said. "And we've had examples of both in the last few days."

Popular Winter Park area forest to close Sept. 4

WINTER PARK – Beginning Sept. 4, a portion of the Arapaho National Forest near Winter Park and Fraser will be closed temporarily to all public use while the U.S. Forest Service works to clear beetle-killed trees along heavily used roads and trails. The closure is expected to remain in place until Nov. 15. The 29,000-acre closure will encompass all of the Fraser Experimental Forest, and the Arapaho National Forest from Winter Park and Fraser south to Vasquez Peak Wilderness and east to Vasquez Road. Vasquez Road will remain open to public use. However, all national forest land, roads, and trails west of Vasquez Road will be closed to the western boundary of the Fraser Experimental Forest. This area is popular with mountain bikers, hikers, campers, and hunters, because it is within walking distance of the towns and the ski area. Violators of the closure could face a maximum fine of $5,000 and/or six months in jail, according to the Forest Service. “We are very supportive of the work being completed and believe it is critically important for people who use the woods so future recreation will be available to all of the users,” said Drew Nelson, Winter Park town manager. Visitors to the National Forest are responsible for knowing where the closures are, and hunters are encouraged to check with the Forest Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife where and when the closures are as the closures will be in effect during multiple hunting seasons. “Thank you for your patience while we work to make our National Forest roads and trails safer for all users,” said Sulphur District Ranger Craig Magwire. Beetle-kill devastation During the past decade the mountain pine beetle epidemic has killed an estimated 80 percent of the mature lodgepole pine tree population in Grand County, creating numerous hazards along U.S. Forest Service roads and trails as the trees fall. An increased risk for high intensity fires also exists in beetle affected forests as dead trees, their dry needles, and fallen trees can serve as fuel to allow forest fires to spread quickly. In an effort to improve public safety and reduce fire hazards, the Forest Service’s Sulphur Ranger District has hired contractors to remove dead and dying trees along more than 150 miles of high-use forest service roads and trails in Grand County. Non-compliance Due to a lack of compliance from the public regarding smaller closures that took place in the Arapaho Forest associated with this project earlier this summer, U.S. Forest Service officials say they were forced to shut down the project for safety reasons. It was later established through a meeting of the Forest Service, community leaders, local special interest groups, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife that a larger and more enforceable closure area was needed in order to complete the project quickly and safely. Community leaders from Winter Park, Fraser, and Grand County have re-affirmed their support for the project and have offered assistance in both law enforcement patrols and working with the public. Information about closures and other areas to experience in Grand County will be available at visitor centers in both Winter park and Fraser, Winter Park Resort, and local businesses and lodging companies. Hunting affected The closure will impact deer, elk, bear, moose, and mountain goat seasons in Game Management Unit 28 during archery, muzzleloading, and the first through third rifle seasons. Game Management Unit 28 is popular for archery hunters as well as mountain goat hunters, said Grand County Parks and Wildlife Manager Scott Murdoch. Bear, moose, and mountain goat licenses are highly coveted, and a bull moose tag in Colorado is considered to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Murdoch said. “This is definitely going to concentrate hunters in other areas,” he said. “We will just have to make some adjustments while the work is being completed.” Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Forest Service have been attempting to contact recipients of these licenses to warn them that the closures are in place, but they consider it to be the hunters responsibility to check into whether the closures affect their hunting plans, said Reid Armstrong, public affairs specialist for the Sulphur Ranger District. So far only a few hunters have been successfully contacted by phone or e-mail due to difficulty associated with locating tag holders, especially those who purchased over-the-counter tags. “It is important to remember that the closure applies to everyone and all places,” Armstrong said. “You can very easily end up somewhere by accident, which is why we closed such a large area.” Cross country travel is prohibited in the closure area, and hunters should plan to camp and remove game only via open roads and trail. Access into and through the closure area will be prohibited. “We have been addressing a lot of calls at our office in Hot Sulphur Springs,” Murdoch said. “We try to direct them to other areas that could be used.” “While it is an inconvenience, it is very clear that there is a safety concern in that area and this work will benefit everyone in the long run,” he said. Contractors also continue to complete tree-clearing work in Game Management Unit 18 in the Stillwater, upper Kawuneeche, and Kauffman Creek area. Road and trail closures in these areas will impact hunting access as well. Recreation Despite the closure of a popular recreation area, there are numerous opportunities for recreation seekers to access other areas around Winter Park and Fraser. Visitors and locals alike are encouraged to explore other parts of the Sulphur Ranger District. “The closures are necessary. Anyone who has been out in this area has seen the downed trees,” said Keith Sanders, president of the Grand Mountain Bike Alliance and local bike guru. He is in full support of the project and believes the keys to success of the project lie in the cooperation of all of the available entities and in educating locals and guests as to where the closures are and where else they can recreate. “It’s an inconvenience but for the long term health and safety of the trail system, this is a beneficial project and I’m glad the Forest Service is getting this done,” Sanders said. The east side of U.S. Highway 40, including Devil’s Thumb, Meadow Creek, and the James Peak Protection Area will be open to public use. However, when clearing work is finished in the closure area, those contractors may move to the Meadow Creek area. Amenities at Winter Park Resort remain unaffected by the closures. Trestle Bike Park will remain open daily through Sept. 23, featuring more than 40 miles of gravity trails fed by three lifts. Activities at the base area Village also will be operating through the 23rd. Discover something new Catherine Ross, executive director of the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, commented that the chamber is working together with local businesses to make the upcoming months; “discover a new trail months.” Maura Mcknight, executive director of Headwaters Trail Alliance, is going to apply her resources to working on other trails in the area and hopes to provide volunteers to direct people away from closed areas and into areas that are open to be explored. “We are in full support of the closures and we are excited to see the work done,” McKnight said. “It is a relatively short closure for such a large project, and we look forward to having safer trails.” McKnight asks that anyone who is interested in volunteering to contact her by calling the Headwaters Trail Alliance at 970-726-1013. You can also check trail updates from the Headwaters Trail Alliance and volunteer by visiting their website at headwaterstrails.org. Mountain bikers can ride between the town of Winter Park and Winter Park Resort on trails east of Vasquez Road, including Blue Sky, Chickadee, Lower and Upper Cherokee, Ice Hill and Serenity. The Idlewild Trail System is also available for mountain bikers to explore on the east side of the highway. Sanders has posted closure maps in his shop and through his social media pages and recommends that riders go out and try the Idlewild and Rendezvous trail systems. “I think this project needs to get done quickly and safely,” Sanders said. “After it is done I think in the long term things will be much better off for years to come.”

Free camping near Winter Park has its costs

Shannon Gilmour and some friends from Centennial were looking for a place to camp this summer and ended up next to Vasquez Creek. They found a campsite to accommodate their group of 12 people and two dogs the first weekend in August. "A friend of mine who has a condo up here told me there was camping up this way, but I really have to give credit to the uncovercolorado blog. He rated it fifth in the state," Gilmour said. Indeed, "Vasquez Ridge" appears fifth on the list of Best Camping in Colorado from a June 2013 entry on the blog, after the Maroon Bells and before Guanella Pass. The blogger describes it as: "Free Camping only a few miles from downtown Winter Park." The close vicinity to town is a draw. But it may contribute to the crowding on certain weekends, according to Sulphur Ranger District Public Affairs Officer Reid Armstrong. "The number of campers in the Winter Park area has increased with the amount of marketing and events," she said. "Increased use has been reflected on the National Forest whether it's for biking or camping or people walking their dogs." The free camping on upper Vasquez Road is "dispersed camping," so there is no designated number of sites nor is there a limit to the number of users that can be in the area. There are also no fees associated with camping there because the Forest Service does not provide amenities such as water, trash service, nor toilet facilities. The Forest Service did not quantify the amount of the increases, but Recreation Manager Nick Schade said that he can confirm use is growing, based on employee observations. "Free camping comes with a price," he said. "We have trash issues and sanitation issues and increased patrols needed." New facility in the works Bruce Hutchins, district manager for Grand County Water & Sanitation District #1, has also observed greater numbers of campers near the district's Big Mac water treatment plant on Vasquez Creek. "I think it is increasing with the amount of events in town. During the festival weekends, the town is packed and the camp sites get the overflow." Grand County Water and Sanitation District #1 operates the only portable outhouse available in the Vasquez Creek dispersed camping area. The district empties it weekly, at a cost of $95 per month. Although it was installed for employee use when the treatment plant was expanded in 2006, the district leaves it unlocked for the campers because it contributes to better sanitary conditions along the waterway. "There aren't any real facilities up there for them. It seems like nobody wants to walk uphill to do their business. People will drive down the road to use it," he said. The district is planning to install a higher capacity vault toilet like those used in other forest service camp areas. The estimated installation cost is $25,000. "We're really close. It was supposed to get done this summer but it may get pushed until next year," Hutchins said. The district is always concerned with water quality, which it tests on a monthly basis. Officials have seen the fecal coliform counts go up in the raw (untreated) water samples. Fecal coliform are bacteria found in human and animal feces. Its presence can indicate other, more dangerous pathogens are present. The water treatment facility is designed to clean the water and make it safe for consumption, and Hutchins is confident that the water quality is not at risk. "It's still a lot better watershed than 99.9 percent of the country uses," he said. Grand County Water and Sanitation District #1 serves downtown Winter Park including Beaver Village, Leland Creek, and Hi Country Haus. The Forest Service also wants to keep the impacts near the creek minimal. Rangers carry "leave no trace" information and try to discuss proper care of public lands with users. High on their list is using established camp sites rather than creating new ones, and disposing of all human waste at least 200 feet (70 adult paces) from any water source, trail, or camp site. Length of stay limited The Gilmour party had little trouble finding a nice spot to camp when they arrived mid-day last Friday. But some weekends cars troll Vasquez Road searching for an available site. Casey, a young man who relocated to the Fraser Valley three years ago, doesn't feel that he has an unfair advantage by holding his site for longer periods of time. "There are so many campsites," he said. "There is plenty of forest for everyone to camp in." The Forest Service policy states that 14 days is the maximum time allotted to campers in one location. "It's not legal to reside on the National Forest," said Armstrong. "This is the public's land, and it's not meant for people to make it their personal home. If someone takes the best spot to set up their tent for the summer then no one else gets to enjoy that spot." Violators can face fines from $275 up to $5,000 and possible jail time of up to a year. Repeat offenders have been banned from using the National Forest. Long-term solution According to Colorado's department of local affairs, the state's population is expected to grow by half a million people in the next five years with 77.39 percent (379,250 people) of that growth on the Front Range. Recreating on public lands is part of Colorado's culture and a reason people move here. "People just love to go camping," said Winter Park-Fraser Valley Chamber Director Catherine Ross. "Especially a year like this when the fire danger is lower. You can have a campfire and everyone loves that." The pine beetle has required many resources for the past several years. Now the Forest Service is ready to move forward with other plans. "We're working on a master trails plan," said Armstrong. "That's something that we've been able to turn our focus to now." As for camping, the discussions are preliminary but the vision is forming. "The best model — the one we think would be ideal — is to have enough developed campsites close to town," said Armstrong. "We think it's important for the Town and the Chamber to be part of comprehensive planning for camping." The Town of Winter Park and the Chamber have indicated they are willing partners. "It's a great experience but I think we can make it better," Ross said.

Church Park Fire continues to burn despite snow

FRASER – Despite a week of wet weather and snow, the Church Park Fire continues to burn south of Sheep Mountain, 5 miles west of here on National Forest and Bureau of Land Management lands. The fire burned approximately 473 acres and was 100 percent contained as of 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 7. Sulphur Ranger District Level 4 incident commander Deana Harms has assumed command of the fire. She said that the interior of the fire is still burning and will continue to burn, “until we get a lot more snow.” While the moisture has helped in certain areas, Harms said it doesn’t take much to ignite pockets of green within the burn units. The fire continues to burn underground until warmer drier conditions bring it to the surface. Sunday afternoon, Oct. 10, a period of sunny dry weather was enough to cause the fire to flare up for about an hour. “It was nothing big,” she added. While firefighters are not working to extinguish flare-ups, they are keeping a close eye on them and working to maintain the perimeter. Firefighter and public safety are the agency’s primary concerns now. “The beetle epidemic already weakened the trees,” Harms said. “Add fire, moisture and, eventually wind and those snags are going to start coming down.” For this reason, the U.S. Forest Service is urging the public to stay out of the area and to follow all posted closures. The Sulphur Ranger District of the Arapaho National Forest has temporarily closed the area of the Church Park Fire and portions of two roads that are within, near or access the fire area. This closure was put in place to assist firefighters and provide for visitor safety. The closure prohibits operating vehicles on the Crooked Creek Road (NFSR 139) from its entry on the Arapaho National Forest boundary to its junction with NFSR 133 west of the fire; and operating a vehicle on the Rocky Point Road (NFSR 880.1) entering the area of the Church’s Park Fire. The closure will remain in place while firefighters continue to monitor the fire, patrol for spot fires and remove hazardous trees along the fire perimeter and roads until there is adequate snow. There are a significant number of hazardous trees along the roadway that pose a safety hazard to the public. – Reid Armstrong can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610 or rarmstrong@skyhidailynews.com.

UPDATED: Multi-acre fire along Vasquez Creek largely contained

By Sawyer D’Argonne | sdargonne@skyhinews.com A multi-acre fire that broke out this afternoon near Vasquez Creek in Winter Park is now largely contained, according to Todd Holzwarth, chief of East Grand Fire Protection District. The fire is between Vasquez Road and the Denver Water Board diversion ditch on forest service land, and is currently a couple acres, according to officials. No homes or structures are in the vicinity except for a water treatment plant that is unlikely to be in the fire's path, according to officials. The fire is now considered largely contained, though responders from Grand Lake Fire, Granby Fire, Grand Lake Fire and East Grand Fire are all still on the scene. Roads into the area have been blocked indefinitely to the general public while emergency workers work to contain the blaze. There are currently seven district fire engines and one from the Forest Service. There are around 20 firefighters on the ground at the moment. A multi-mission aircraft collected video and heat signatures of the area. The heat signatures showed no hot spots outside of the fire's parameter. Emergency workers are pumping water out of Vasquez Creek to help suppress the flames, according to Holzwarth. The fire is believed have originated from a campfire, as officials flagged a campfire near the area. The Forest Service will investigate the cause of the fire. "I can only speculate at the moment. There were a ton of campers up there this weekend; there was no lightning in other words," he said.

Sylvan Fire contained as of May 29

The Sylvan Fire that was burning in the national forest south of Hot Sulphur Springs was fully contained as of Tuesday morning, May 29. The cause of the fire was traced to a days-old lightning strike. Firefighters had pulled back from the fire last Thursday due to dangerous, muddy road conditions in the wake of a storm that left four to five inches of snow in the area, said U.S. Forest Service public affairs specialist Reid Armstrong. About half-dozen Grand County-based Forest Service firefighters were battling the wildfire, which was 7.5 miles south of Hot Sulphur Springs. The fire was burning sporadically on about one acre in an area of predominantly dead timber. The fire first was reported at about 3 p.m. Tuesday, May 22. Armstrong said personnel on the ground traced the fire to a tree that was struck by lightning. The most recent recorded lightning strikes in the area had occurred on May 18, she said. The fire was called the Sylvan Fire because of its proximity to Sylvan Reservoir, near the junction of the Muddy Creek and Timber Creek roads. The area is east of County Road 34, which intersects County Road 3 near Williams Fork Reservoir. Firefighters from Hot Sulphur Springs and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management were involved in the initial response to the blaze.

Grand County fire season outlook ranks ‘normal;’ conditions could worsen

GRAND COUNTY—Even with nearly a dozen wildland fires currently burning across the state and three wildland fires taking place locally, the National Interagnecy Fire Center out of Boise, Idaho, still ranks the wildfire outlook for the summer months at normal for central and northern Colorado. The report also state the drought in the state is expected to persist with some improvement for the northwest portion of the state. A normal fire year does not mean there won't be fires in the state, according to the report. Similarly, just because there currently is no fire restriction in place in Grand County does not mean people should be lackadaisical about fire safety, said Reid Armstrong, public affairs specialist for the Sulphur Ranger District. Grand County has not implemented any fire restrictions yet, though they are expected to start to weigh all of the factors affecting that decision and will be deciding whether to implement fire restrictions in coming weeks, according to Grand County Sheriff Rod Johnson. Fire restrictions aren't put in place because people are nervous or because a fire is burning, according to Armstrong. Factors such as the amount of fuels in the area, the water content of those fuels and the soil and weather patterns are factors that affect the decision to implement fire restrictions. "Just because we are not meeting those criteria to put restrictions in place doesn't mean people shouldn't be vigilant," Armstrong said. One of the biggest factors that affects the decision to put fire restrictions in place is the weather, and forecasters are predicting a drier than normal summer with lower than normal precipitation, according to Nezzette Rydell, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Boulder. The three-month prediction won't necessarily make the wildfire conditions worse, according to Rydell, however they will not help to improve the wildfire danger. Without a prolonged period of precipitation, the persistent drought conditions in Colorado will not improve either, she said. Thursday there was a red flag warning for the majority of the state including Grand County. The red flag warning is expected to stay in place over the weekend. A red flag warning means the weather consists of high temperatures, low humidity, and high winds — conditions that increase the risk and possibility that wildfire could start and spread quickly. "If the weather continues to be hot and dry the wildfire conditions are going to get worse," Armstrong said. The three local fires include a wildland fire that recently took place behind the Fraser Library, which was quickly extinguished by local fire departments and members of the Forest Service, and the Big Meadows Fire that has scorched 604 acres on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park since the fire started Monday, June 10. The Big Meadows Fire is considered to be 95 percent contained, as of Thursday, June 20, and is expected to smolder through to the end of summer. A third fire started from lightning by Keyser Ridge on Monday, June 17, and burned one-tenth of an acre before being out thanks to nearby air resources. Currently, the conditions in the area are not severe enough to warrant any fire restrictions, Johnson said in an email Monday morning, June 17. Armstong reminds the public to be vigilant with campfires, grills, stoves, cigarettes, and any other fire producing mechanism and to make sure these are "dead out" and not left unattended. You can check local fire restrictions at co.grand.co.us or you can check the current local fire danger for the Sulphur Ranger District at http://gacc.nifc.gov/rmcc/dispatch_centers/r2ftc/. Currently the wildfire danger is ranked on the high side of moderate for the mountainous area. Reid Tulley can be reached at 970-887-3334

Sulphur Ranger District to resume pile burning in Grand County

GRANBY – Sulphur Ranger District will be burning slash piles in Grand County to remove hazardous fuels from past timber harvest and fuels reduction activities. Pile burning will occur late October through December as weather, staffing, snow cover and smoke dispersal conditions allow. Anyone in the area with smoke allergies should contact Reid Armstrong at 970-887-4145 or krarmstrong@fs.fed.us to be put on an email or call list for notifications the days piles are burned. Treatments are scheduled for the following locations: Grand Lake Area • Green Ridge 3 miles south of town off U.S. Highway 34 and County Road 66: This unit contains approximately 250 piles to be burned this winter. The remaining piles will be left for wildlife habitat. This will complete the Green Ridge project, which was started in 2007 as part of the Arapaho National Recreation Area Vegetation Management Project. Winter Park Area • Twin Bridges Unit 28 between Vasquez Road (148) and Little Vasquez Road (156) near the terminus of Arapaho Road: Includes approximately 650 piles on 13 acres. These piles are located near the junction of Blue Sky (N86) and Twin Bridges trails. Portions of these trails may close during burning operations for public safety. • Ice Hill Unit 92 near U.S. Highway 40 along the national forest boundary with the town of Winter Park: Sits near the junction of Ice Hill (N87) and Serenity (N91) and contains approximately 500 piles on 10 acres. Portions of these trails also may close during burning operations for public safety. Slash piles were left behind in both these areas as part of the Upper Fraser Valley Forest Health Project to reduce hazardous fuels near the Town of Winter Park. The plan is to burn Unit 28 first and then proceed to Unit 92. Signs will be posted in the area when burning is under way.

2011 brings renewed hope of Winter Park Quiet Zones

For at least a decade, Winter Park’s town council has been focused on ways to quiet the horns that blare as Union Pacific’s coal trains and Amtrak’s California Zephyr rumble through its residential neighborhoods. In 2011, creating “Quiet Zones” at Winter Park’s two railroad crossings still tops the council’s list of priorities, and town manager Drew Nelson is feeling optimistic that work could begin by year’s end on at least one crossing . “I feel positive about our application but a lot of details have to be worked out,” Nelson said. “It’s a lot of money to spend right now, but council feels like it’s a necessity. It’s about quality of life, and that’s what people are here for.” The two railroad crossings – one at Vasquez Road and the other at King’s Crossing – would need to be upgraded so that trains could safely pass through the village – horn free – without worrying about a car trying to jump the tracks at the last second. The proposed upgrades include 100-foot, raised medians, automatic gates with lights that stretch across the road and, most importantly, upgrades to the electronic equipment at the crossings for round-the-clock warning devices. Creating the 2.74-mile quite zone will cost the town an estimated $450,000 for the electronics alone, not including the upgrades to the road, installation of medians and the cost of the mechanical gates. The town will be responsible for funding the project entirely on its own (although Nelson intends to apply for grants to help offset the cost). Union Pacific also will require the town to pay an annual $20,000 fee to maintain the circuitry. The town has gained a tentative nod from the Federal Railway Administration and has received initial designs and cost estimates from Union Pacific along with that company’s blessing to proceed with the application process. The application now rests with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, which will review the plans along with any public comments it receives. The town filed its application on Dec. 10 and the public has 30 days (until Jan. 10) to oppose or support the application. The PUC will render its decision with 210 days. Cornerstone Holdings President Clark Lipscomb said he, for one, plans to object to the application. “Everyone would love to have fewer whistles,” Lipscomb said, noting that he has no problem with the quiet zone at Vasquez. But, he added, “I have a contractual agreement with the Town of Winter Park to work toward getting the underpass built (at Leland Creek).” An underpass at Leland would make Kings Crossing obsolete. Lipscomb expressed further concern that the proposed plan for a quiet zone at King’s Crossing would impede access to the west side of his property. Due to the medians, trucks coming out of his property would not be able to turn left. “All my construction traffic is going to have to come though the neighborhoods of Winter Park,” he said. Further, he added, “the quiet zone doesn’t resolve the safety and emergency concerns.” Citizens have long worried about how the railroad crossings can hold up emergency vehicles, wasting valuable time in the event of a fire or heart attack. “It’s inevitable that an underpass will be built at Leland Creek,” Lipscomb said. “It’s a waste of money to put in something you know is going to be torn out.” Lipscomb said that after trying for five years to get the underpass approved with the towns of Winter Park and Fraser, the PUC threw out the initial underpass application for lack of progress. Now, he is pursuing a new application on his own, and he said he’s made more progress in six months than the previous effort made in five years. He anticipates having final construction plans approved in 2012. Lipscomb estimates that the underpass will cost around $9 million, adding that the Town of Winter Park is contractually obligated to pay for a significant portion of the project. (Fraser’s end of the deal related primarily to maintenance.) While Town Manager Jeff Durbin said Fraser will continue to support the underpass, Nelson said Winter Park Town Council has switched gears at this point and is focusing entirely on the Quiet Zones. “We jointly pursued the underpass with Cornerstone for more than five years, and that first attempt was ultimately unsuccessful due to a myriad of factors,” Nelson said. “Whether or not the underpass gets constructed is entirely in Cornerstone’s court.” If the PUC approves the town’s Quiet Zone application, Winter Park could begin installing the improvements in the railroad right of way immediately. Nelson said the town will focus first on installing infrastructure at the Vasquez crossing because “there’s no potential for an underpass there.” After the improvements are installed, the town would send a letter to the Federal Railroad Administration, which would then send a statement to the railroads operating on the line that a quiet zone was approved, removing the federal requirement for train horns at the at-grade intersections. – Reid Armstrong can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610 or rarmstrong@skyhidailynews.com.

USFS hazard tree removal project moves onto new roads

GRANBY- The past decade’s mountain pine beetle killed an estimated 80 percent of mature lodgepole pine trees in Grand County, creating numerous hazards along Forest Service roads and trails as these trees begin to fall. In an effort to reduce these hazards and improve public safety, the U.S. Forest Service’s Sulphur Ranger District has hired a contractor to remove hazard trees along more than 100 miles of high-use, forest service roads in Grand County. Due to nature of this work, segments of road being treated will be temporarily closed to the public and gated while work progresses. For safety reasons, adjacent trails and dispersed campsites are temporarily closed to all users (including those on foot, bike, ATV and horseback). Help the U.S. Forest Service complete this work efficiently and quickly by respecting closures and encouraging others to do the same. Heavy machinery is in use in these areas and trees are being felled and moved. Machine operators have a very limited field of vision and may not see people walking or biking nearby. These closures are for public safety. To avoid disappointment, call the Sulphur Ranger District’s Visitor’s Information Hotline at 970-887-4100 before planning your trip or heading out to the trailhead. Or, sign up for updates by emailing SRDUpdates@fs.fed.us; stop by the Sulphur Ranger Station at 9 Ten Mile Drive in Granby; visit http://www.fs.usda.gov/arp; or follow us on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/usfsarp. Even with all this work, forest visitors should be extremely cautious when recreating in the Arapaho National Forest. Dead and live trees can fall without warning. Visitors should avoid patches of dead trees, especially on windy days. Also, make sure to park vehicles and place tents and RVs in areas away from dead trees and take a saw or ax with you to remove fallen trees from roads to avoid becoming trapped. Remember, your safety is your responsibility. Winter Park Area The removal of hazardous fuels along the National Forest boundary with private property on Little Vasquez Road (a.k.a. Arapahoe Road) is now complete as is roadside hazard tree removal work on that portion of road. By the end of this weekend (June 24), the following roads and trails are expected to reopen: Little Vasquez, Ice Hill, Chickadee and Twin Bridges east of Blue Sky. Beginning June 20, the following roads and trails are temporarily closed: Vasquez Road (FSR 148), East D4 (from WTB) and D3. Work along Vasquez Road is expected to take several weeks. Blue Sky, WTB, Twin Bridges and Leland Creek Road will remain open. Grand Lake Area As of the end of the day June 21, roadside hazard tree removal work will be complete and the following roads and trails will re-open: Kawuneeche (FSR 120), South Supply (FSR 119), Blizzard Pass (M121), Bowen Gulch (N119), Bowen Gulch Connector (N119.1), Burn (M122), Lower Soda Pass (N128) and Middle Supply (M123) Weekday hauling will continue along these roads so please use caution, particularly on blind curves. As of June 21, the following roads as well as adjacent trails and campsites will be temporarily closed: North Supply (FSR 120.4), Lower Stillwater (FSR 123) to the mid-slope (Gilsonite gate), North South Trail, Bull Mountain campsites, Spruce ‘Em Up Jack, Trail Creek Loop, Lower Gilsonite, N118 (non-motorized Gilsonite). Work along these roads is expected to continue over the next few weeks. Any access to the Stillwater Pass area must be via the west entrance and through traffic on 123 in not available. Work along lower Stillwater Road is expected to last for several weeks.