Friends of Fourmile
Friends of Fourmile chapter of GARNA consists of volunteers from the motorized and non-motorized recreational communities who have special concern for the 100,000 acre Forest Service/BLM area in northern Chaffee County called the Fourmile Travel Management Area. The overall goal is good stewardship of the land’s resources (meaning a minimum of direct and indirect impacts) and maintenance of a balance among various recreational uses.
Our specific objectives are to assist the BLM and USFS in implementing the area’s citizen-formulated Fourmile Travel Management Plan, including to assure quality recreational opportunities continue to be available for a wide variety of users maintain and improve the area’s natural resources help resolve conflicts between users ensure that all types of recreational users and private landowners continue to be involved in the area’s management.
Friends of Fourmile is non-partisan with respect to favoring or promoting one type of recreational activity over another (e.g. motorized or non-motorized). It is focused simply on helping the land managing agencies implement their approved travel management plan, which is itself the product of a long public process involving all types of user groups.
Visitor Use Trends (They’re Up!)
The FoF annual survey has created a database that is probably more comprehensive and detailed than any available for other Forest Service or BLM areas in Colorado, largely due to the survey’s nine-year span, covering virtually all of Fourmile’s 220+ camping sites and 130+ miles of two-track roads in in a single 5-6 hour period. The annual survey allows the Friends group and the two public lands agencies to identify resource problems and issues and on-going or potential conflicts between users. It is a powerful tool that will aid in eventually revising the joint Travel Management Plan for Fourmile. Take a look at some of the data yourself!
After conducting annual Memorial Day surveys for nearly a decade, the not-surprising conclusion is that overall visitation in Fourmile on that peak weekend has increased considerably in 2017-at least doubled! Although visitation is much less on other weekends, and even less during the week, proportionately similar overall trends have occurred. OHVs (ATVs and motorcycles) use increased including the wider multiple passenger OHVs known as side-by-sides. Campsites associated with OHV use have increased in total number and existing campsites expanded as much as five-fold. Use by mountain bikes on the expanding trail system and camping associated with biking, as well as general hiking, has also increased.
Monitoring Use in the Digital Age
In the 14 years since the Friends have been patrolling and monitoring, a large amount of information has been gathered concerning condition of the area’s natural resources and the location and changes in its roads, camping sites and areas of special concern. It has been a challenge to keep track of all this in ways that can easily be updated and shared with partner agencies. Over the past year we have been gradually entering our information on platforms like Google Earth which allow us – and our agency partners – to quickly see exactly where things are occurring and where corrections in management may be needed. This is a work in progress but currently we are working to accurately portray all the official system routes, spur roads, trailheads, private lands, motorized and non-motorized trails, special features and camping sites. Here’s one example of a layer of information we can display: all the known 220+ camping sites.
Major Reprinting and Updates of Brochures and Kiosk Entry Maps
A major contribution the Friends make to the Forest Service and BLM is to produce, update and distribute information about Fourmile done under their review and supervision. Printing costs are typically provided by the agencies, but over the years hundreds and hundreds of volunteer hours have been contributed by Friends with professional credentials in graphic design, photography, writing and editing. The 2017 year saw major revisions in the Fourmile brochure and in all three of the area’s large entry and trailhead maps (Fourmile, Midland Bike Trail, and Whipple Trail). Some 18,000 Fourmile brochures were printed (enough for three seasons) and new maps installed in 16+ locations.
Midland Bicycle Trail Signs Refreshed
Although several local volunteer and Buena Vista Town groups are involved with the 18-mile-long Midland Bike Trail, for more than 13 years the Friends have been providing the signing, mapping, and brochures. The summer of 2017 saw an overdue replacement of some 30 distinctive logo trail markers, repainting of posts, and annual brush trimming.
Major Fourmile Trails Rerouted – New Trails Proposed
Although trail rerouting and new trails in the Buena Vista Whipple trail system and Fourmile have been underway for several years, 2017 was a milestone which saw several volunteer-driven projects completed. Friends of Fourmile has been very involved in planning, design and ultimately the hard workday labor to bring this about. With strong leadership from the BV town staff and a new coalition called BV Trails, the BLM approved several miles to be added to the Whipple system, which is now under construction under supervision from the Colorado Mountain Club. A longer-term project to create some 12 new miles of hiking and biking trails and 6 miles of motorized singletrack has been created with community support and submitted to the BLM.
How do I become a Chapter Member of Friends of Fourmile?
Join GARNA and check the box for enrolling as a Friends of Fourmile Chapter member. You will still receive all the benefits of general GARNA membership but will also be included in Chapter notifications of meetings, work dates and special Fourmile events.