Outdoors Blog

Foothills plan proposes tweaks for bikes, dogs

Ridge to Rivers took aim at two of the peskiest issues in the Boise Foothills with the draft master plan released Monday: poor dog etiquette and mountain bikes going too fast downhill.

The first phase of the action plan in the 10-year plan calls for on-leash buffer zones for the first 200 feet at trailheads popular with dog owners, slow zones on trails with frequent pedestrian/bike conflicts and construction of up to three downhill trails for mountain bikes.

Ridge to Rivers will hold an open house to review the draft management plan from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Jim Hall Foothills Learning Center (3188 Sunset Peak Road). An online survey will be available after the open house through May 8.

Dog issues are a common complaint in the Foothills, yet 55 percent of survey respondents preferred no change to dog rules and 25 percent wanted more off-leash trails. About 166 of the 190 miles of Ridge to Rivers trails are dog off-leash.

Here are the 17 action items included in phase one of the plan, which covers 2016-2019 (action plans for the two future phases will be formulated at a later date):

— Create on-leash buffer zones of 200 feet from trailheads at locations popular with dog owners. The goal is to prevent the buildup of dog waste near trailheads. The plan also calls for obtaining funding through sponsorship for additional trash cans and mutt mitts to promote waste cleanup. The program would be evaluated after a year. Targeted trailheads are on page 55 of the report, but they include Table Rock, Hillside to Hollow, Military Reserve and Camel’s Back/Hulls Gulch. Hillside to Hollow gets 76 percent of its use from people with dogs. Seamans Gulch is second with 43 percent.

— Design and implement an awareness campaign about controlled-dog behaviors.

— Secure funding to add dismount gates and “slow zone” signage to prevent mountain bikes from moving too quickly through congested areas. Targeted areas are listed on page 55. Camel’s Back, Lower Hulls Gulch and Military Reserve are mentioned.

— Build one to three downhill mountain bike trails. Areas mentioned as possibilities: Sidewinder to Lower Hulls Gulch, Fat Tire Traverse/Freestone Ridge junction to lower Military Reserve and Deer Point lift to Simplot Lodge. In conjunction with these new trails, downhill mountain bike traffic could be prohibited on Sidewinder, Red Cliffs, Freestone Ridge and Central Ridge.

— Implement a pilot program of weather- and conditions-related trail closures that would rely heavily on volunteers to change signs. This was supported by 85 percent of survey respondents.

— Identify candidate trail loops for all-weather surfaces and construct at least one. Targeted areas include Camel’s Back/Lower Hulls Gulch, Military Reserve, Castle Rock and Hillside to Hollow.

— Assess the feasibility of adding connections to the trail system and work toward securing the top three choices. Possible connections are listed on page 31. Highest priority was given to Polecat to Hillside to Hollow, Bogus Basin to Dry Creek and Rocky Canyon to Upper Freestone.

— Identify a north-south greenway connecting Boise to the Foothills.

— Increase resources allocated for ADA-accessible trail development and adaptive-recreation trail modifications.

— Create education materials about sharing trails, particularly with equestrians. Equestrians were mentioned frequently in the report. A focus group was held with them to try to get a handle on their concerns. One idea is to add signs at trailheads and along trails frequented by horseback riders alerting other users to their possible presence. Ridge to Rivers also proposes highlighting the best trails for equestrians on its website and designating horse-trailer parking at trailheads. Equestrians make up a tiny portion of users but have indicated they would use the system more if changes were made.

— Generate and catalog accurate trail-use data.

— Create a Ridge to Rivers budget reflective of this action plan. That means increasing funding. One possibility mentioned in the report was a parking pass program for trailheads.

— Identify trails that should be modified to achieve more sustainable trail design.

— Identify possible locations for additional restrooms and drinking fountains. Restrooms could be added at Cartwright Road and Lower Bogus Basin.

— Solicit sponsorships to fund an annual celebration of the Ridge to Rivers system.

— Increase user awareness via trailhead communications of horse trailer parking needs.

— Work with public transportation providers to create access to the trail system.

Ridge to Rivers estimates that the trail system received more than 1 million visits last year from 112,000 unique users. The breakdown was 54 percent hiking/walking, 27 percent bicycling, 17 percent running, 1.8 percent motorized and 0.2 percent horseback. Trends include increased use, increased use from non-residents and significant increases in people accessing the trailheads by car.

For more on the Boise Foothills trail system, check out the introduction to our series, “Discover the Boise Foothills.” The next installment, which explores Hillside to Hollow and the rare plants that live there, will be posted later this week.

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