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A decision has been made as to which of five proposed trails are most likely to be approved for funding and development.

Two local trails were chosen based on a criterion of being user-friendly and developable in terms of feasibility, public support, rights-of-way issues and private property concerns

Salmon Valley Stewardship (SVS) Executive Director Gina Knudson made the announcement at a December 8 meeting of the Lemhi County Commissioners. She, along with SVS staff members Rachel Layman, Outreach Coordinator/Local Foods Program and Michelle Tucker, Botanist/Forest Recreation Program Manager, explained the public involvement history of the Salmon area Trails Plan Feasibility Study and the subsequent selection process. Knudson commented she has seldom seen the amount of support and participation as that generated by the Trails Project.

She said five trail segments were studied with an eye to compatibility of uses and any physical or design constraints. Initial costs and the cost of long term maintenance will be considered later in the study. The two proposed trails being viewed as most likely to succeed are along Highway 93 from Salmon north to the Carmen Creek Bridge and from Salmon south to the Shoup bridge.

As to the other areas considered, Knudson said a Discovery Hill connection trail to Carmen Creek came in third on the list of potentials. She said the public was not as enthusiastic about the Salmon River corridor trail from Morgan Bar to Island Park with its pockets of private property but there was a desire voiced to continue studying that route. A riverside stretch from town to the Carmen Creek Boat Ramp was also studied.

A big consideration in the study was which trails had the most chance of being funded, approved and built within the next five years. That prerequisite narrowed the immediate top two choices to the north-south trails along Highway 93.

A county priority indicated by Travel Plan public meetings is a Discovery Hill trail that would connect the area to Carmen Creek. Commissioner Bob Cope expressed surprise that a trail in that area did not receive more support since a developed connection there could provide an alternate emergency access route to Carmen in the event of a bridge failure. Knudson said there actually was support for that trail as well as the others. She said the study will include “next steps” so the other trails identified in the Salmon Area Trails Plan will remain in the pipeline.

Michelle Tucker explained a two track Discovery Hill trail does actually exist on state and Bureau of Land Management ground however it is a “…pretty hard-core route.” She said due to the terrain a trail in that area would not be accessible to just any walker, biker or runner. She said the proposed funding sources are geared towards accessibility to a larger proportion of the community. Tucker said the route is only a little over five miles long but the terrain is humbling. She said the BLM is interested in developing one of the alternative routes in the area however that would take far more than the existing funding resources. Tucker said since there are efforts being made in the Black Hawk area which will address Carmen Creek access issues there was a little less pressure placed on establishing a Discovery Hill route.

Concern for public access trails is growing county wide as more and more private properties are being built in areas that block public access. Knudson said obtaining access permissions on trail routes will be a very important part of the project.

Tucker said the rights-of-way along Highway 93 have always been an unknown. She was pleased to inform the commissioners that the Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) chose Lemhi County to launch a statewide project of data collection from past surveys, deeds and every retrievable record. From that information, Graphic Information System (GIS) maps of the ten mile corridors to the north and south were produced. The maps document all the individual rights-of-way along the proposed trail route. That information is available to this county and the ITD will continue to create GIS maps of rights-of-way throughout entire state.

Knudson commended Tucker on her being in the right place at the right time to secure the ITD data study that will be of huge benefit to all Lemhi County offices.

Tucker said that along the Highway 93 route, wherever the right-of-way is not wide enough to accommodate a ten foot wide trail they will work individually with the affected private property owner. Knudson said from here on all conversations with ITD will be documented and copied to the county and the commissioners will be invited to any future meetings.

Susan Law of the Federal Highway Administration Western Federal Lands program has been a valuable advisor to the local trails feasibility study. She is the program manager for the Federal Lands Access Program which is the study’s funding source. Law was in attendance at the last trails meeting which gave the public an opportunity to ask questions. Knudson said that by the end of the meeting everyone felt they had made the right choice of trails to propose in terms of which would be the most competitive projects for funding.

As to a time line, Knudson said the next round of Federal Land Access construction money will become available in about three months. She said the work required will be fast and furious in order to put all the gathered data into a strong, ready to submit application.

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