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Solutions for Mount Shavano

The Colorado Fourteener Initiative, a Golden conservation organization, has arrived at a solution for Mount Shavano trails.  A land purchase is set to close on some of the highest real estate in the country. If approved, Colorado Fourteener Initiative will become the private owner of the summit of 14,325-foot-tall Mount Shavano.

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Their goal with the purchase of the land is to provide sustainable summit routes to the state’s fourteeners.

The purchase of about 40 acres of patented mining claims that include the summit could provide legal access for hikers visiting the top of the peak for the first time in more than 100 years.

Hikers reaching the summit by way of the standard route have likely trespassed unknowingly across the private mining claims.

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Mount Shavano can been seen from Salida and is the southernmost fourteener in the Sawatch Range. It is a prominent peak in the Upper Arkansas Valley and predominately is land managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

A realization that the summit was privately held came about when the condition of the current trail leading up to the peak had deteriorated.

An unplanned “social trail” leading to the summit across private property has experienced severe erosion in sensitive alpine tundra.

Plans by the U.S. Forest Service to improve the trail were put on hold because the land was privately held, so Colorado Fourteener Initiative set out to contact the landowners and purchase their mining claims.

We intend to buy this land so that we can build a new summit trail on the mountain and have no intentions to mine any of the parcels.

Colorado Fourteener Initiative has the anticipated $40,500 needed to buy the mining claims making them the private owners of the land. The transaction, if completed, would work out to roughly $1,000 per high alpine acre.

The land in question stretches across a gentle saddle just below the final summit. A steeper portion of land, where the bulk of the erosion problem exists, is just below the saddle at the top of the steep drainage that forms the familiar “Angel of Shavano” snow formation.

Colorado Fourteener Initiative plans to work with the U.S. Forest Service to establish a sustainable route to the summit of Mount Shavano for public access.

Once we have completed the trail reconstruction and restoration process, Colorado Fourteener Initiative plans to donate these lands to the U.S. Forest Service so that they become part of the publicly owned fourteener trail system.

Colorado’s 54 peaks that are 14,000 feet or higher attract thousands of hopeful hikers. In 2015, an estimated 260,000 hikers visited the state’s highest peaks.

The Sawatch Range, during the same year, saw approximately 95,000 hikers, and Mount Shavano alone saw 5,000 to 7,000 visitors in 2015.

If the sale is approved, hikers on Mount Shavano will see few changes in the coming years. Because much of the reroute and trail improvements would take place on federal land, changes to the trail will undergo an environmental impact study and procedures dictated by the National Environmental Policy Act.

 

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Wes Hill

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