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The Coal Basin Ranch near Redstone, Colorado, opened a new system of singletrack trails to the public this past weekend, as part of an effort to demonstrate that trails can be an important part of land restoration. This property that was once the processing center for a large-scale coal mining operation has been developed as a community asset for advancing healthy landscapes and healthy lifestyles.
Coal Basin Ranch’s family-friendly trail system includes cross-country singletrack along a mountain creek through Douglas fir and spruce, as well as a fun flow trail descent through an aspen forest. They trails were designed by Progressive Trail Design. In addition, the property boasts several jump lines, pump tracks and a Strider track for the youngest riders.
The trail system is on private property owned by Crystal Basin Holdings LLC and is the former site of Mid-Continent Resources’ five coal mines, which operated from 1956–1991 and yielded 23 million tons of medium volatile coal for U.S. steel mills.
The vision for Coal Basin Ranch is for it to be a valuable community resource that will give people a place to connect with nature and enjoy the property’s recreational opportunities, while gaining a deeper understanding of how trails can be an integral part of restoration.
“We hope people will enjoy the trail and reflect on the area’s history,” Coal Basin Ranch Manager Trina Ortega said. “Coal Basin is a story of transformation. Not long ago, it was a heavily impacted industrial site. We are partnering with the community to transform the land and to provide a place where individuals can recreate and experience the landscape, ultimately discovering how they, too, fit into this area’s unique story.”
The trail system will be open to the public, free of charge. In addition to being a recreational asset for the public to enjoy, it will provide a location for local schools that have mountain biking programs and outdoor education programs to have an optimized place to ride, run and hike while learning about restoration, sustainably built trails, stewardship and conservation.
Access to the trails is possible through an easement with Pitkin County. Gary Tennenbaum, director of Pitkin County Open Space & Trails, says Coal Basin Ranch is the first of its kind in the county. According to Tennenbaum, the ranch is a model for other landowners who may be willing to provide public trails on their property.
“A private landowner building and maintaining trails on their property that are open to the public is unique and we feel needs public support,” he said.
Pitkin County will provide enforcement assistance to ensure trail users are following ranch rules.
“A new network of really fun bike trails up Coal Basin will introduce folks to this area and showcase how it is being restored from former mining activities,” he added. “The Crystal Valley is one of the most beautiful valleys in all of Colorado and has been found by the public. Well-managed recreation can help with the tourist economy while protecting the vast array of natural resources that makes the Crystal Valley so special.”
Coal Basin Ranch’s new trails are some of the first in the Crystal River Valley to be optimized for enjoyment on bikes, says Roaring Fork Mountain Bicycling Association’s Executive Director Mike Pritchard.
“The trails will be welcoming to riders and families with kids of all ages, offering high-quality fun while building up each rider’s skills,” Pritchard said. “Exploring the ranch’s trail system offers a unique opportunity to appreciate the area’s industrial past and consider the ongoing rehabilitation efforts to improve the ecological health of the area, all the while enjoying being in the moment, surrounded by the magnificent forest and mountainous horizon of Coal Basin.”
Ortega noted that the ranch is a unique experiment on several fronts. “Some private property mountain bike trail systems exist in the West but are fee-based, while Coal Basin Ranch is free to the public,” she said. “We hope the community can continue to enjoy these trails and this land for years to come by staying on trails, employing positive trail ethics and etiquette, and being good land stewards.”
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