It’s no secret that certain groups have been questioning multi-use access to the Slate River for many years. Several years ago, an meeting with very little forewarning or fanfare was called to discuss the winter trailhead. While a certain person was trying to get this trailhead shut down to motorized travel, others were sticking up for open access. Present at the meeting were many, including Keith Bauer (current Nordic Center Director), Frank Konsella (current board member of Share the Slate), Marlene Crowley (Public Works Director), some county plow drivers, and several other backcountry users.
Most people present did not want to see motorized access to the Slate River Drainage get shut down and were willing to make compromises to reduce user conflicts, property owner complaints, and trailhead crowding. However, as more and more people find themselves using the Slate River Drainage, some of these rules have been forgotten – or some never knew them in the first place. Below is a list of “rules” that were agreed upon during this meeting, and/or have been established as the norm.
- No parking in the turn around – At the end of the road and the start of the trailhead, there is a circular area. This circular area was created as a result of the meeting mentioned above. It is meant as a turnaround area, especially for those who have trailers in tow. It can also be used as a loading and unloading zone, but be aware that this can cause trailhead crowding. So, if you use it to unload/load, please make sure to move swiftly. You should NOT park in this turnaround area. There are currently two signs that tell people not to park there. But, we will be working on trying to get more in years to come.
- No parking snowmobiles overnight – The Slate River trailhead is not the same as Kebler Pass, and the majority of the community does not want to see it become this way either. Preservation is key. Having snowmobiles parked at the trailhead, like they do at Kebler, was a complaint by some groups. It was agreed on in the meeting mentioned above that snowmobiles would not be allowed to park at the trailhead overnight.
- No overnight vehicle parking – Yes, you got it. You can’t park your car in the lot at the winter trailhead overnight. This is kind of a bummer because it makes overnight camping/access in the Slate River Drainage much more difficult. But, again, this was agreed on during the meeting mentioned above. We must honor this to help keep the plowing easy and affordable for the county. This is also an important consideration since some user groups would like to restrict motorized access to the Slate. If we can’t park to camp and access is reduced, will we be able to do what we love to do out the Slate?
- Be aware of your boundaries – The trailhead does not start on National Forest. Quite the contrary. The Slate River Road travels through various parcels of land after the winter trailhead. Some of them are private, some are Land Trust, some are Fish and Wildlife Service. Approximately 2.3 miles upvalley past the winter trailhead, the Slate River Road enters National Forest. But, then there are parcels of land within the National Forest that are private (for instance, at the Pittsburg townsite). When it doubt, stay on the road. Even at the trailhead itself, it was agreed on that people would stay on the road at the trailhead, because this land belongs to the Land Trust, which does not allow motorized vehicles. This applies to snowmobiles too. Yep, you gotta maybe ride your snowmobile over a few hundred feet of dirt. Then, be sure to stay on the road for a couple of miles after. But, it’s worth it to preserve our access. The maps below show some of the property boundaries of the Slate River Drainage.
- Be aware of limited parking – It has become the norm to go up the Slate River Road, then turn around at the circle, looping back to park on the southwest side of the road. Technically, you can park on the road all the way to about Nicholson Lake (actually, the cattle guard). But, past that, there is no public parking available as both sides of the road are private property. If parking is full, you should probably re-evaluate your plans for the day. If you do park, make sure you are not obstructing other cars. Gunnison County will ticket people for obstructing travel on the road.
While the rules of the Slate River Drainage are not perfect, they work for now. They help reduce conflicts between user groups, plow drivers, and property owners. We must respect them as they are if we wish to continue having winter access to our beloved Slate River!