Raider Ridge tie-in stirs up emotions in Skyridge
|A mountain biker rides through
the Meadow in Horse Gulch, with Raider Ridge in the background.
A controversial proposal calls for putting a 1-mile singletrack
up the other side of the ridge so people can more directly
access the Horse Gulch trail system from Skyridge./Photo by
Two new local groups – the Friends of Raider Ridge and
Don’t Raid Our Ridge – are currently meeting head-on.
A proposal for a new trail up the front side of Raider Ridge is
stirring up contention in the Skyridge neighborhood. While some
view the proposal as an amenity for Durango as a whole, others
are calling it a physical and aesthetic threat.
When the Skyridge development was approved for construction,
much of the subdivision’s backdrop was made off-limits to
development. Instead, a large portion of the Raider Ridge hillside
was dedicated to the city as permanent open space. Since that
time, a connector trail linking Skyridge with the extensive Telegraph
trail system in Horse Gulch has been discussed.
“While the Skyridge plat does not show a trail up that
hillside, there was a general discussion about a trail in that
area,” said Kevin Hall, Durango Parks, Open Space and Trails
manager. “The city’s trail plan does show a future
trail coming down in that vicinity.”
That vicinity is roughly the middle of Raider Ridge as seen looking
east from Durango. The trail connection was given life in late
February of this year when Skyridge residents Seth and Jody Furtney
wrote Hall a letter. They encouraged the city to build a better
trail from the Skyridge and Hillcrest neighborhoods to the top
of Raider Ridge. As proposed the trail would be an approximately
1 mile of singletrack with spurs connecting both the north and
south ends of Skyridge.
“Skyridge is a beautiful community with a beautiful ridgeline
behind it, and there’s no way to get there,” Seth
Furtney said of the need for a trail. “Let’s recognize
the obvious and build a trail that will satisfy the needs of the
On that sentiment, the Furtneys founded the Friends of Raider
Ridge. The group is dedicated to constructing what it says will
be a low impact trail modeled on the section of the Telegraph
Trail that climbs similar terrain in Horse Gulch.
“A lot of people are threatened by the visual impact in
what is essentially a pristine area,” Seth Furtney said.
“But most people look at the Telegraph Trail and agree that
it’s low-impact and nearly an invisible trail that serves
a lot of users.”
Furtney added that many people assume that the trail will be
tractor-built and resemble a road. He countered that the plan
is for a 2-foot wide singletrack. “Hand-cut trails are different,”
he said. “A 2-foot wide trail is next to invisible.”
|The Power Line, which runs north-south along
the lower portion of the Raider Ridge hillside, currently
offers the only access to Horse Gulch from Skyridge. Some
residents are proposing a trail that would go up the hillside
and tap into the top of the Raider Ridge Trail and the rest
of the Telegraph trail system. Other residents say the trail
is unnecessary and could lead to numerous problems./Photo
by Todd Newcomer.
An added benefit of the new trail, according to the Furtneys,
would be the elimination of two trails that they say have been
bushwhacked into place. He argued that if left in place, the two
bushwhacks would create serious erosion problems on the ridge.
Bill Manning, executive director of local trails advocacy group
Trails 2000, agreed.
“People are going to go there anyway, and we would like
to see that hillside stay in good shape,” Manning said.
“I believe it would be better to have a well-constructed
trail than a bushwhack route.”
Manning also said that in his mind, the trail would be a good
addition to Skyridge and Durango. “I think constructing
a good singletrack would have great value,” he commented.
“My feeling is a good trail up that hillside would be a
valuable enhancement to that neighborhood, and I think it would
be a benefit to the trail system as a whole.”
In addition to working with Trails 2000 to build the trail, the
Friends of Raider Ridge would like to undo what they consider
a major visual scarring on the same hillside. At the northern
end of the ridge, an access road to a visible water tank and the
area where another tank was buried are clearly visible.
“We would like to revegetate those appalling hillside scars
created by the developer,” Jody Furtney said. “You
can see this buried water tank from all over the Animas Valley
and from as far away as Gudy’s Rest on the Colorado Trail.”
The Furtneys concluded by saying that the local trail system
was the major factor that drew them to Durango and to Skyridge.
“Trails individually are not that attractive,” Seth
Furtney said. “Trail systems are what are valuable to a
community. The Telegraph Trail system is recognized nationally
because of that. This would connect another piece to the system.”
Furtney is the first to acknowledge that there are others who
do not share this vision. “We respect that there are people
who don’t like this trail,” he said. “But we’re
trying to think about the long-term viability of the ridge.”
A recently formed, opposing group, Don’t Raid Our Ridge,
takes a different view of the long-term viability of Raider Ridge.
“Of course, we love biking and hiking, but we don’t
feel a need for any more access to Raider Ridge than we already
have,” said Jay Millward, one of 4
the group’s co-chairs. “We strongly believe that
it’s not necessary to scar up Raider Ridge any more than
it already is.”
In addition, Don’t Raid Our Ridge argues that the new trail
would fragment wildlife habitat, increase fire danger, create
rather than reduce erosion, lead to trespassing and vandalism,
create increased traffic and parking problems in the neighborhood
and increase noise problems.
Larry Hock, the group’s other co-chair, said that he has
started polling the Skyridge neighborhood and already collected
more than 75 signatures opposing the trail and only five in favor.
“My neighbor is an avid mountain biker and he’s passing
out petitions opposing this,” Hock said.
He added, “To this point, we’ve resisted doing anything
public on this. I could fill the room with angry people if I wanted
to, but I believe we have enough support that we don’t need
to do that.”
Hock said that although the trail would be located behind his
home, he does not view it as a NIMBY issue. He noted that the
Powerline Trail already runs through his back yard and a major
access to the trail parallels his front and back yards.
“This isn’t a NIMBY thing,” he said. “We’ve
chosen to live next to this trail and we enjoy being next to this
Hock and Millward countered that the opposition deals with impacts
that go beyond the human scale. They said that the Friends of
Raider Ridge are advocating for access that already exists with
the Powerline Trail providing access to the Telegraph Trail system
in a less direct way. “I can already access the Telegraph
trail system by going down this trail and around,” he said.
Hock also said that Don’t Raid Our Ridge does not buy into
the argument that people will bushwhack up the ridge anyway. He
said he has seen very little evidence of people taking the direct
route to the top of the ridge. “I walk the Powerline Trail
a couple times a day and on the 500 to 600 times I’ve been
on the trail, I can’t remember ever seeing anyone bushwhacking
up the hill. What they call bushwhack trails are game trails.
There’s bushwhacking up there, but it’s being done
To date, the Durango Parks and Forestry Advisory Board and the
Durango Open Space Advisory Board have both taken preliminary
looks at the proposed trail. They have also heard from both the
Friends of Raider Ridge and Don’t Raid Our Ridge.
“Neither of the boards have made recommendations, and they
essentially deferred to follow-up meetings,” said Hall.
The next step in the process will be a 7 p.m. community meeting
June 21 at the Durango Recreation Center. Hall said that the future
of the proposal rests in the community’s hands and the meeting
will be open to all comers. We’re going to have that community
meeting to take more public input,” he said in closing.
“We’re going to notify residents in the Skyridge area,
release public notices and get the community out and let them
have their say on this.”