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New Mineral Hill Trail and Willow Brook Trail bridge replacement projects highlights of another successful trails maintenance and construction season
Contact: Jason Lederer, Summit County Open Space and Trails
The Open Space and Trails Department seasonal trails crew is wrapping up another successful and productive 2020 field season. Despite the obvious challenges associated with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as well as record use of and visitation to the County’s trails and open spaces, maintenance and trails work proceeded somewhat normally. In addition to ongoing annual activities, such as tree and brush clearing and trails maintenance, the crew completed two major projects including construction of a new trail in the Mineral Hill area of French Gulch outside of Breckenridge and replacement of deteriorating bridges along the Willow Brook Trail outside of Silverthorne.
Mineral Hill Hiking Trail
During July and August, the trails crew led efforts to complete a new 2,500 linear foot, hiking-only trail leading towards the top of Mineral Hill in French Gulch. Trail construction was supported by two weeks with a Rocky Mountain Youth Corps crew, two volunteer groups, and a day of rock hauling by the Town of Breckenridge’s Open Space and Trails’ seasonal trail crew.
Constructing this new hiking trail was anything but simple and required installing two areas of technical rock staircases and log crib staircase towards the top. This recently completed segment is the first phase of a two-phase project. The second phase, which will take the trail to the top of Mineral Hill, is currently in the planning and permitting phase, with construction anticipated to occur as early as 2022 if NEPA approval is received in 2021.
"As a hiking-only trail, it should help take pressure off of some of the high-use bike trails in the area, reducing potential for user conflict," said Brad Kremske, seasonal resource specialist. "Additionally, it provides an opportunity for hikers and dog walkers to recreate without bike traffic, which is a much-needed amenity in the Golden Horseshoe."
Trail users will experience excellent views of French Gulch, the Tenmile Range, and interpretive opportunities of the areas extensive mining history.
Willow Creek Trail
The Willow Creek Trail outside of Silverthorne provides a popular access portal to the Eagles Nest Wilderness. This summer, Open Space and Trails staff received numerous reports from local trail users that aging log bridge structures crossing Willow Creek were deteriorating and becoming unsafe. These bridge crossings predated the County’s acquisition of the property and were over 30 years old.
During September and October, the trails crews replaced the existing four log crossings with three new bridges. The new bridges meet modern trail design standards and are consistent with other newer bridges throughout the County’s trail network. The largest bridge has a span of over 55 feet, which is necessary for crossing a braided section of the creek.
Upwards of $7,000 of materials were donated by a local Silverthorne resident, substantially reducing project costs. The Town of Silverthorne, who partnered with the County on the project, also contributed funding towards materials costs and helped haul in roughly 7,000 pounds of materials to the bridge sites.
"These new bridges are solid," said Kremske. "We hope they serve Willow Creek Trail users well for at least another 50 years."
The Summit County Open Space and Trails Department identifies, protects and manages open spaces, trails and trailheads to preserve and maintain Summit County's rural mountain character, unique natural areas and high quality of life for residents and visitors.
The Open Space and Trails department employees a four-person seasonal trail crew to coordinate and oversee annual maintenance work, trail construction, and other projects on Summit County's open space and trails property assets. Work is made possible through ongoing partnerships with the White River National Forest, Summit County towns, volunteers, and the overwhelming support of a community that values our amazing trails and open spaces. Additional information about the Summit County Open Space and Trails department’s accomplishments since its inception in 1995, as well as yearly highlights, are summarized in the annual State of the Open Space Report.