West Magnolia Trailhead update

Barbara Lawlor
Boulder County

On Friday, Jan. 18, a lone mountain bicyclist came out of the West Magnolia Trailhead and he didn’t even act suspicious. “It’s legal, ” he said. “But it’s not pretty.”
The forest service opened the gates to the West Mag campground area, not to vehicles, but to hiking, skiing, snow shoeing and inspecting the mitigation work that has taken place in the past year. The forest service is telling people that this is the end of the big closures and only small areas will be closed as contractors finish up their work.
Before the end of the first quarter, an Environmental Assessment for West Mag and the Dots Trails will begin. This process must be completed before the redesign and reforestation can begin on the trail network.
For those who are thinking of finding their old ski/snowhoe trails through the woods, think again. The woods are pretty much gone and the land is covered with slash piles, roots, boulders brought up by excavation and dead trees, their branches reaching darkly toward the sky. Just walking is precarious, unless you stay on the West Mag Road or the trails that lead to the school like the yellow brick road.
Forest officials know people will be upset at the dismal landscape but hope they keep in mind how much change a few years can bring.
The area has been closed since June for safety reasons while major fuel mitigation and hazardous tree cutting takes place. Although walking or riding in the area is now allowed, the Nederland Recreational Shooting Closure is still in place.
But the area is still rife with danger.Those visiting the campground are advised to stay on designated roads and trails and exercise caution around existing trees. Trees of all sizes remain susceptible to blow-down during windy weather. Stumps and logs may be hidden under the snow.
Cutting and hauling operations are on hold for now, but mitigation operations are expected to resume when conditions allow and small area closures may be put in place. Slash piles and log stacks dot the large open areas and officials ask that people stay away from them.
Local hiking and snowshoeing guide David Felkley returned after a trip to West Mag, utterly stunned by what he saw. “It looked a beaver pond that had receded and left all the beaver homes stacked on the dry pond bed. It looked dangerous to even walk in the area and the wind was relentless because there was nothing to break its journey over the decimated land.”
Felkley knows that the land will be reclaimed and vegetation will return but he hopes it happens before it is too late for him to enjoy it.
For other recreation information on the Boulder Ranger District this winter, please call Visitor Information at 303-541-2500