TSV Proposed Bike Park + Williams Lake Trail Reroute

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TSV Proposed Bike Park + Williams Lake Trail Reroute

Postby JBella » Fri Jun 08, 2018 1:15 pm

Scoping Letter and Map for Taos Ski Valley, Inc.'s proposal for new bike trails and reroute of the Williams Lake Trail, as was sent to email subscribers from the Carson National Forest then posted on their website earlier;

https://www.fs.usda.gov/nfs/11558/www/n ... 319130.pdf

The Carson National Forest and Taos Ski Valley, Inc., are skirting the typical approval process including Environmental Assessments and the proper Public Comment period by utilizing a Categorical Exclusion per 36 CFR 220.6(e)(1) “Construction and reconstruction of trails.” Comments may be submitted and are most useful "before June 19th". I submitted my comment this morning which addresses several flaws with this proposal, including how it appears that it fails acknowledge that the Williams Lake Trail is being rerouted to accomodate the ski area's owner's planned development of a private residential neighborhood south of the Bavarian and Lift #4.

The Williams Lake Trail reroute should be separate from the bike park proposal, the reasons I discuss in my submitted comments describe why;

"After reading the proposal provided in the Scoping Letter and Map I see a couple considerable flaws with the new Williams Lake trail route that need to be addressed, publicly. The bike trails I'm all for, they seem well designed and complimentary to modern use of Taos Ski Valley as a privately operated recreation area per the terms of the agreed Special Use Permit with the Carson National Forest. The Williams Lake reroute however, possibly should be adjusted so the trail does not travel within TSV's existing SUP boundary, directly across the bottom of the El Funko ski run. Knowing what I know about TSV and how they have handled situations in the past this is a bad idea, mainly because it would (could?) allow them to attempt to close public access to this trail into the Wheeler Peak Wilderness upon their own discretion. El Funko is a steep, rocky avalanche path which requires TSV to close the area to conduct avalanche mitigation in order to open it as a ski run.

First issue - rerouting the trail through an avalanche path increases hazards hikers and backcountry travelers will be exposed to, this is not necessarily in tune with what the scoping letter states "to enhance the aesthetics of the Williams Lake trailhead and to improve the hiker’s initial experience of the trail".

The second issue I am seeing with this reroute proposal - when TSV is conducting avalanche mitigation in El Funko, how will they assure public access via this trail is not affected? The Williams Lake Trail is the most popular trail among Winter recreationists and backcountry users in the Taos area, this is a well known fact. Should closures be necessary in order for the ski area to conduct work within their boundaries, at the expense of limiting access to public lands for everybody else, this will not be accepted kindly by the community and will create even more conflict between the community and Taos Ski Valley, Inc. as well as the Carson National Forest. Given recent incidents with TSV attempting to prevent certain individuals from accessing our Public Lands at specific times of the year this would not be a good thing.

Third issue - the rerouted Williams Lake Trail crossing El Funko will create hazards as downhill skiers and snowboarders will be using that route at the same time uphill backcountry travellers are. Yes this is already true on the existing portion of trail which shares the catwalk with downhill riders, however it's different because skiers descend onto the El Funko exit quickly to maintain speed to cross the approaching flat section and visibility is limited, downhill skiers may not be able to slow down in time to avoid colliding with uphill trail users. The current route is different in that it is a wider corridor with better visibility and skiers tend to not be skiing so fast as it's marked as a green run, there is plenty of room for uphill and downhill trail users to avoid collisions.

Another issue I see is grouping this project along with the mountain bike trail proposal - the bike park will be an inbounds, resort used recreation ammenity for which they are using terrain within their SUP for an activitiy which they will sell lift tickets for customers to participate, the same as skiing and snowboarding during Winter - although this is different as it is a Summer activity occurring on lands which are currently open to public access for hiking *(and biking *sic)*, unlike Winter when the general public may not be allowed on terrain used for skiing and snowboarding, it should be managed in a way in which persons who don't wish to purchase a lift ticket are provided an option to ride up the mountain upon their own recognizance and use the downhill bike trails the same as any trail on Public Lands within the Carson National Forest, so long as they do so in accordance with trail management policies such as directional use. The Williams Lake Trail is an historic access point into Public Lands which Taos Ski Valley, Inc. has absolutely no jurisdiction over and should not be grouped with the bike park proposal for this reason.

The existing Williams Lake Trail access route has existed and been used by the Public long before Louis Bacon purchased his land (including the short section where the current Williams Lake Trail crosses this private land) from the Pattison Land Trust, and before he purchased Taos Ski Valley, Inc. and the lands owned by TSV, Inc. which the trail crosses by the Bavarian and Lift #4. It is easy to prove that this is the case and Public Access via this route across these private lands has existed historically and unimpeded by legal closures besides when Stage 3 Fire Restrictions have been enacted across the Carson National Forest, it's important to maintain this Public Access Point as it is and make sure that Taos Ski Valley, Inc. understands this as they pursue their proposal to reroute this historic trail across lands within their SUP and the El Funko ski run.

Also the statement in the Scoping Letter which reads "The portion of the WLT that would be abandoned would be rehabilitated and revegetated after completion of the re-route" should be clarified, it is my understanding that the first sections of the current Williams Lake Trail route including the section "which presently starts out as a heavily utilized service road" may be used as a vehicle access route for a residential development project which has been approved by the Village of Taos Ski Valley, and this road would either be maintained as a Village of TSV roadway or become a private road which the Village of TSV will not maintain.

It also should be addressed why, as this project is currently in the Public Comment Period and has yet to be approved, Taos Ski Valley, Inc. has alread begun working on the trail reroute as described in the Scoping Letter and Map.

It seems like this project is being rushed through the process to accomodate the wishes of TSV, Inc. and Louis Bacon, and the Carson National Forest is not taking adequate measures to adequately inform the public of this proposal, regardless of my opinion here thanks for reading my comments and input and considering these points"
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Re: TSV Proposed Bike Park + Williams Lake Trail Reroute

Postby Bob » Sun Jun 10, 2018 8:28 am

Wow, thanks for the heads-up. I don’t know how many people will see this here in time during summer months, but I did. It seems like the Carson NF definitely overlooked winter use of the WLT. Thanks again.
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Re: TSV Proposed Bike Park + Williams Lake Trail Reroute

Postby lobojasper » Tue Jun 26, 2018 9:47 am

the cancer is spreading :shock:
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Re: TSV Proposed Bike Park + Williams Lake Trail Reroute

Postby JBella » Sat Aug 04, 2018 12:17 am

Has anyone been on the William's Lake trail recently? What used to be the first quarter mile of trail is now a nearly clear-cut development in preparation for private homes/condos/whatever to be built. I hiked the "proposed" reroute yesterday (the Categorical Exclusion is being used so it's not a proposal, more like they're throwing this up and saying it's happening without going through the typical assessments), and can say it's clear that what the Forest Service and Taos Ski Valley have been saying all Summer about the reroute being done so as to improve the aesthetics of the trail and intial hikers' experience, as well as tree thinning in the area to improve potential wildfire conditions, is leaning into the obvious bullshit category. It's so this neighborhood can be developed, That's It, That's All. This development has been approved by the local municipality for years so its no secret, anyone can find the info at the county recorder's office, why TSV and the US Forest Service have not been straight forward about this project I don't know. Seems like it would make sense to just be "transparent" ~ as TSV has loved throwing that word around when they're not actually walking the walk. We all know a billionaire investor bought the ski area, and that developments such as this on his land within the Village of TSV will be part of the progression of the area, and that's fine ~ so long as our access to our Public Lands including the Wheeler Peak Wilderness is not inhibited. That means that daily access is not ever, NEVER, EVER affected by the ski area's operations or the development of this neighborhood where our historic access route into the William's Lake basin has existed for decades before this land was purchased by the current owner. This means for example no daily or long term closures under the guise of "avalanche danger", no 30 minute closures at 6am on a Wednesday morning during January, no ten minute closures with a ski patroller telling people they can't use our trail cause they're working on a ski run, no "TRAIL CLOSED signs posted, none of that. NONE ~ this includes any potential attempts in the future to conduct ANY avalanche mitigation work not within the ski area's permitted operating boundary, the possibility of which has been discussed in conversations I've had with former TSV employees. With the exceptions of when Stage 3 Fire Restrictions are ordered during times of extreme drought such as during June of this year, the William's Lake trail and Wheeler Peak Wilderness must stay open as they always have, from each and every historically used access point and route.

When I've asked what the plan is to make sure the new William's Lake trail route won't be closed specifically while the ski area is conducting avalanche mitigation work in the El Funko area where the new trail route will cross, neither TSV nor the Carson National Forest has had an answer ~ which seems to imply they either aren't prepared to answer that because they don't know, or they have discussed it behind doors not open to the public and are planning to possibly utilize closures either temporary or longer along this new access route. That is the extreme worst-case secenario and may never happen, however it is a very real possibliity and Taos Ski Valley has shown through their actions in the past that they tend to act as if they own the land they use, not as if it is Public Land which they are permitted to operate on.

This is my interpretation of the situation based on recent events and developments regarding these matters. I'm bringing it to the forum here to help initiate awareness and discussion of the situation, because we may have a legitimate need to prepare for battle should the Forest Service fail to uphold the integrity of what our Public Lands are amidst a continuing attempt by specific individuals and private corporations to influence how our National Forests and Wilderness areas are managed, especially where their businesses operate on adjacent public and private lands. I have no issues with any developments that are in tune with the communities in which they are happening, so long as the private interests involved carry out their developments in a way that doesn't interfere with Our access to Our Public Lands.
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