The City of Victor is asking the forest service for permission to build 15 miles of new trails emanating from the Mike Harris trailhead half of a mile south of town.
The Southern Valley Trails Project [SVTP] was first initiated in 2010 to conduct a formal study of public demand for trails. Former Mayor and owner of Fitzgerald’s Bicycles,Scott Fitzgerald, said this is the first concrete step in making the SVTP a reality.
Fitzgerald is also part of the newly created Victor Trails Committee. It was created after the election of AJ Linnel and Molly Absolon to the Victor City Council, who Fitzgerald said ran on a platform of trail development as a driver of economic activity.
The new trails that would be created by the SVTP would be classified as “low angle.” Fitzgerald said that is important because the valley has great “steep trails that go deep into the mountains” for more experienced riders, but in order to fulfill Victor’s goal of encouraging healthy lifestyles, it needs a greater variety to appeal to more people.
“You need places for people to recreate at all skill levels,” he said. Using a ski analogy Fitzgerald said that easier trails are not only good for beginning riders, “even the best skiers enjoy a blue square groomer once in a while, or even on a regular basis.”
Teton Basin District Ranger, Jay Pence said that he has seen the city’s proposal and it “appeared to be a reasonable request.” He said the first step in the process is to formally accept the proposal, something that may take a month.
He said before he can accept the request the city needs to answer some questions about the specifics of the plan. He said an example, in the SVTP proposal, is that the city said the summer mountain bike trails would also be for use in the winter.
“Does that mean they are going to groom them in the winter?” he asked. He added that the exact width of the trail needs to be nailed down. In order to do that, the city needs to clarify exactly what will be allowed on the new trails. Pence gave jogging strollers as a use that could alter the trail’s width.
Once the SVTP is accepted, the process outlined by the National Environmental Policy Act, [NEPA] would kick in. One part of which is “public scoping,” which involves reaching out not only to a wider swath of the public but to environmental and other special interest groups on a national level.
Pence said it could easily be next summer before Victor is told if it can go ahead with the SVTP.