|Eastern Mojave Vegetation||Letters -- 2018|
Conditions in the alley.
Articles that refer to this letter:
Tom Schweich to City of Golden, 8/5/2018
From: Tom Schweich
Locations: Kinney Run.
Articles that refer to this letter:
Tom Schweich to Parks, Recreation & Museum Advisory Board, 8/9/2018
Subject: SingleTrack Sidewalks (STS)
I will be unable to attend the public meeting at Shelton School on August 28, 2018, because of previously committed travel plans. Therefore, I am submitting my comments on this proposal below.
Generally, I think the Singletrack Sidewalks (STS) as they are called on GuidingGolden.com are a good idea. They can be enjoyed by bicyclists of all ages. I personally used them many times in another city and another time. I also recognize the sustained effort by GoldenGiddyup to work with the community through the Parks, Recreation & Museum Advisory Board.
While there are many positives to the proposed bicycle trails, they have a serious down side: they can seriously fragment an already threatened habitat, unless they are carefully designed.
I am very concerned about the proposed route of Segment 5. Similar concerns can be, and have been, raised about Segments 4 and 6, so my comment below may also be applicable to them. Segments 1, 2, and 3 seem relatively free from controversy, at least from a natural resources perspective.
The area occupied by Segment 5 is the deeper part of Kinney Run. The vegetation is shrubland that provides cover for wildlife. It also has rock outcrops and thin soils that support such unusual plants as Physaria vitulifera "Roundtip Twinpod." The vegetation can be labeled “Foothill Shrubland” with its mountain mahogany, skunkbush sumac, and currant species, along with chokecherry and snowberry species. This vegetation type is weakly conserved in Colorado (Rondeau, et al., 2011). The primary threat to this vegetation type is fragmentation. Among other things such disturbance provides a conduit for weed invasion.
With the construction of Stonebridge in 1999, wildlife was squeezed into the narrow corridor of Kinney Run. This corridor is 443 feet wide at the Cambria Lime Kiln, and just 310 feet wide near Tripp Ranch. Wildlife must share this space with walkers, many with dogs, and bicyclists, some of which are traveling at a high rate of speed. The presence of dogs (even on leash) and high-speed anything is disturbing to wildlife. While the width of Kinney Run may seem adequate for humans and wildlife to co-exist, the “area of influence” of human activity on wildlife has been estimated as 200 m, or about 650 feet (Taylor and Knight, 2003). I’m not suggesting that bicycle paths be prohibited in Kinney Run, only that the zone of disturbance be kept to a minimum.
The proposal describes these trails as “… natural surface trails - next to existing paved bike paths …” In fact, they are not “next to” existing bike paths. The illustration of Segment 5 as presented on GuidingGolden.com shows the proposed route. The proposed route of the bicycle path is 55 feet from the concrete path in the northern area of Segment 5. In the southern area of Segment 5, the proposed mountain bike path is 48 feet from the concrete path. This is not right “next to” the concrete path. This route will pass right through shrublands that are used by native wildlife. I accidently flushed a coyote come out of that area in April, 2018. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zaq71GnZInc). There are additional areas of trampled vegetation indicating routine wildlife use.
At the trail spacing proposed, the proposed route of Segment 5 will further fragment Kinney Run into three fragments from two fragments. Numerous studies of the effects of habitat fragmentation were summarized as “… across experiments spanning numerous studies and ecosystems, fragmentation consistently degraded ecosystems, reducing species persistence, species richness, nutrient retention, trophic dynamics, and in more isolated fragments, movement … (Haddad et al., 2015).” (“Trophic dynamics” refers to predator-prey relationships, such as foxes eating mice that eat beetles that eat leaves. If you take one of them out of the chain, then all are disrupted.) There are lots of places where trails can be built that will not cause this disruption. Segment 2 and 3 are examples. We really do not need to further break up Kinney Run for the entertainment value. If we really must have another trail through the narrow wildlife corridor of Kinney Run, then it should truly be constructed right “next to” the existing path. By “next to” I mean zero feet from the concrete trail.
I have read (on Nextdoor.com) that the proposed alignment of Segment 5 was previously disturbed by motorcycles. The point made by that assertion is that the proposed route has been disturbed in the past and will not be further impacted by a new bicycle trail. This is a short-sighted view. It has been at least 18 years since motorcycles used the route, and perhaps longer. The vegetation has had significant amount of time to recover and begin to obliterate the effects of disturbance.
We also need to realistic about the size of the trails. Singletrack trails rarely stay single track. They get wider. They get wider where bicycles pass. They get wider at turns. The width of some of the turns on the Chimney Gulch trail can only be described as staggering. My experience, mostly on North Table Mountain, shows that the area disturbed is two to four times the actual width of the trail.
I think open space has intrinsic value that is degraded by turning it into a playground. Apparently, a lot of Golden villagers think likewise. As evidence I would cite the recent Golden Investment Forums (2018) survey. In that survey, the only investment option that received a majority vote was for the city to acquire/purchase open space. The proposals for playgrounds did not fare so well. My preference would be to leave the open space of Kinney Run undisturbed.
Finally, the minutes of the Parks, Recreation and Museum Advisory Board allude to on-the-ground review of the proposal with GoldenGiddyup. It seems only fair that the neighbors and other residents of Golden should receive similar consideration. An evening meeting in a school building is not equivalent. There should be a public walk of the area with the advisory board so that all the interested public has an opportunity to see the actual proposed placement of the trails in actual field conditions.
Thomas A. Schweich
Golden Investment Forums: Task Force Report to City Council. http://goldenco.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=2789&meta_id=92659 June, 2018
Haddad, et al., 2015 Habitat fragmentation and its lasting impact on Earth’s ecosystems. Science Advances. 1(2), 6 March 2015
Rondeau, R., K. Decker, J. Handwerk, J. Siemers, L. Grunau, and C. Pague. 2011. The state of Colorado's biodiversity 2011. Fort Collins, Colorado: Colorado Natural Heritage Program, Colorado State University.
Taylor, Audrey R., and Rickard L. Knight. 2003. Wildlife responses to recreation and associated visitor perceptions. Ecological Applications. 13(4):951-963.
Date and time this article was prepared: 11/21/2019 4:03:21 PM