High times for Horse Gulch
Trails celebration to honor Durango's 'Central Park'

SideStory: The Big Gulch

by Will Sands

The year 2010 is proving to be a high time for Horse Gulch. Durangoans will always have backcountry access right in the backyard thanks to recent preservation of the recreation resource. To honor this milestone and Horse Gulch’s status as a “Durango cornerstone,” a trails festival has been set for Sept. 18. “The Big Gulch” will include a series of races celebrating the Gulch. The event will benefit many of the organizations that have made the Horse Gulch experience possible.

Just minutes from most downtown residences, Horse Gulch and the legendary Telegraph Trail system offer more than 30 miles of easily accessible singletrack that appeal to a wide variety of users. “Horse Gulch has always been and remains a treasure for this community, a pristine place you can easily ride or walk to from the center of town,” said Mary Monroe, executive director of Trails 2000.

But up until recently, Horse Gulch was a patchwork of private and public land holdings and came dangerously close to being developed. In more than one area, singletrack and open space were nearly dozed to make way for houses.

However, the City of Durango and a variety of partners have been working behind the scenes to keep houses and

highways out of “Durango’s Central Park.” The momentum behind this push hit top speed in the last two years.

Early in 2009, the public’s stake in Horse Gulch grew when the City of Durango acquired a one-third interest in a vital 240-acre parcel along Raider Ridge. Not long after, the City also entered into a contract to purchase “a perfect piece” and was buoyed in the effort by a generous Great Outdoors Colorado grant. The 222-acre Crader parcel, located high in Horse Gulch near the end of the Mike’s and Secret loops, was officially preserved late last year.

In early June of this year, the City of Durango purchased another 115 acres in the heart of the Gulch from the Fort Lewis College Foundation. Not long after, the City learned that Great Outdoors Colorado had awarded $1.2 million toward the purchase of another nearly 400-acre piece. Together with existing trail easements on the Telegraph and Sidewinder trails and Crite’s Connect, the purchases guaranteed that all trails within Horse Gulch will remain as trails for perpetuity.

“When you take a look at Horse Gulch and the open space acquisitions, the existing trail easements and the trail building that has happened to date, we have so much to celebrate,” Monroe said.

In recognition of these Horse Gulch achievements, Trails 2000 has organized the “Big Gulch, A Trails Festival.” The inaugural celebration will honor the protec

tion and preservation of Horse Gulch with a day of racing and revelry. Though Horse Gulch is not completely in the clear – La Plata County and Oakridge Energy are discussing a plan that could bring a major road into the Gulch – recent strides should give all of Durango cause to celebrate.

“The Big Gulch is an opportunity for the community to get together and celebrate and appreciate the more than 1,100 acres of open space that’s been protected right in the vicinity of downtown,” Monroe said. •

More information on the Sept. 18 festival can be found online at www.thebiggulch.org.



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