Hello Mr. Hoby and the JCOS staff,
As a Jefferson County resident and frequent visitor to all of JCOS parks, I thank you for investigating a new management plan for Apex Park. The current management plan has proven to be inequitable between user groups, confusing for park visitors, and in my opinion has created far more user conflict issues than it has solved. To be honest, the current management plan seems to have been set up for failure. So, bravo for taking the time and initiative to devise and implement a new plan that will address the needs of park users more coherently.
Upon reading the initial draft management plan proposal released on or around February 13th, 2020, a couple of points stuck out to me. It was encouraging to see a plan for designated use days. However, the things that weren’t as encouraging to me were the biased amount of days given to foot traffic access, and simply the number of trails and trail miles that would be affected by limited access. My primary mode of recreation is mountain biking, and I have long felt Jefferson County has a strong bias against bike access in their parks. The new draft plan did not assuage this feeling. And just seeing how much of the park would be affected by the management plan was not encouraging from a general user’s perspective: the access points and connectivity with other parks in the area would be greatly affected. Simply put, there were too many trails being restricted for any user group, and visitor satisfaction would have decreased too much.
I follow the communications of several advocacy groups in the area, including Golden Giddyup and COMBA. Both groups sprung into action after the initial draft management plan was released, identifying red flags and brainstorming potential alternatives that would offer more equitable solutions for the management of the park. I am happy to say that I generally support the findings and work of these organizations, and I believe they have done a great job of identifying the potential problems with the draft plan, as well as offering alternatives that would work better for all users: alternatives that more completely address safety concerns, equality of access, overcrowding, and overall visitor experience. Their documentation is linked below for your reference:
Whatever plan is ultimately implemented for Apex Park, I believe Jefferson County has a responsibility to compliment that management plan with fair and unbiased education and communication to park visitors. For too long and too often, signage and communication at trailheads has been biased against mountain bikers, much of it bordering on “shame messaging” tactics for bikers to be in control, be aware of other trail users, etc. I am 100% supportive of riders being in control at all times on public trail systems, but I feel that it is equally as important that all trail users are aware of their surrounds and are considerate of others regardless of their mode of travel. Off leash dogs, hikers and runners with ear buds playing music too loud to hear outside noises, and pedestrian trail users not respecting restrictions and/or closures are issues that are rampant throughout the JCOS park systems. An education and communication strategy that includes outreach specifically to hiker, trail runner, and equestrian as well as mountain bike groups will be critical in ensuring any new management plan is successful. Signs at the trailhead aren’t going to be sufficient. I believe we only need to look at Centennial Cone as an example of the need for increased outreach to hikers, trail runners, etc. According to a JeffCo ranger I had the pleasure of speaking with at length last summer, the number of citations given out to bikers at Centennial Cone on hiker-only days could be counted on a single hand whereas warnings and tickets were given to hikers on most every bike-only day.
I truly appreciate the time and effort that is going in to fixing Apex Park. It offers an exceptional and unique experience unlike any other park in the county. I’ve seen a lot of change at Apex over the years, as far back as the TUTF and the current restrictions, the 2013 floods, and even before. My hope is that a comprehensive and equitable management plan is possible. And while no plan will be “perfect” to any one user group, I believe that be working together we can craft a solution that meets the goals of JCOS and the needs and desires of the park visitors.
Thanks very much for your time and attention.