March 13, 2009

Staunton Park plan unveiled, gets good reviews

Lynda James
Correspondent

Management zones This map shows the management zones for Staunton State Park. State Park’s management zones control what activities can be designed for that area. The purple areas are protected, blue areas are passive recreation, green areas are natural, and yellow areas are developed. Protected and natural areas make up about 70 percent of the park. Developed areas comprise about 15 percent, and passive recreation areas make up about 10 percent. Chad Herd, project manager from LandWorks Design, emphasized that even though 15 percent are developed areas, the actual developed footprint will be much less. Lion’s Head is in the purple area on the western lower corner, and Elk Falls is in the blue area on the western side of the park. (Map by LandWorksDesign)

Of roughly 160 attendees at the unveiling of the Staunton State Park Preliminary Master Plan at a meeting on March 10, most seemed happy with the plan, which excludes recreational vehicles and off-road vehicles in the park, limits camping areas to three spots, limits campfires to one area, and allows horse trails.

LandWorks Design Inc. project leader Chad Herd said the preliminary master plan was designed by "first listening to the site, then listening to the public."

He said he was pleased that most comments at the meeting held at Conifer High School were positive, even from those people with major objections in the past.

The approximately 3,700-acre Staunton Park is located north of Shaffers Crossing on U.S. 285 and is surrounded on three sides by subdivisions in Park and Jefferson counties. Pike National Forest is north of the park.

The park is divided into four management zones (see map) with limited activity in most areas. The most developed area is called Lower Camp, which is on the southern portion of the park.

Lower Camp will be the site of a visitor's center, tent camping, sleeper cabins, an outdoor education center, picnic areas, parking areas, fishing, and interpretive trails. One campground in that area will allow campfires in standard fire rings. Campfires will be prohibited in the rest of the park.

Most of the park will be accessible only by foot, bike, or horses. Motorized vehicles will be allowed only to access three areas of the park - all covering a small area on an existing road. Those areas include the Lower, Middle and Rock Camps.

Currently, 10 structures exist on the property. They will be utilized as employee housing, historic interpretive centers and cabins for visitors. Other structures that will be built will depend on feedback from the public and future funding. Proposed structures include the visitor's centers and outdoor education centers, camping yurts and group camping facilities.

Middle Camp, which lies directly north of the Lower Camp, is shown in blue on the map and will include the historic Staunton cabin as a museum, group cabin for overnight staying, campsites with no fires, picnic area, trails and trailhead parking.

Rock Camp, shown as the northern yellow area on the map, has the most rock outcrops. It will allow camping with no fires, have a ropes course and team building activities, rock climbing areas, snowshoeing and cross country skiing areas and cabin camping.

The East Preserve, shown by the eastern green area on map, is home to dramatic rock outcroppings. It will allow multi-use trails, overlooks and wildlife observation areas and interpretative trails. Wildlife migration corridors in the areas led Colorado State Parks to limit activity in the East Preserve.

The Old Mill Site, shown by the small blue area in the north on the map, is the site of an old sawmill. Outdoor and historic interpretation will be the focus of that area as well as hiking and climbing and overlooks to Black Mountain on U.S. Forest Service property to the north.

West Preserve, shown by green on the west side of the map, is home to Elk Falls and Cathedral Rocks. An existing cabin near the Elk Falls ponds, north of Elk Falls, will be utilized as a check-in point and possibly as a second visitor's center. Other activities include outdoor interpretive areas, hiking, and multi-use trails. Yurt winter camping is a possibility in the small yellow area on the north side. Wetland interpretation and seasonal climbing are also possibilities.

Lion's Head is shown by the southwestern purple area on the map. It will be protected because peregrine falcons nest in the area. Seasonal climbing may be allowed at Lion's Head only when it would not interfere with the falcon nesting period from April to September.

Hiking trails extend for 17.5 miles and multi-use trails extend for 11.2 miles. (See trails map for locations.) Multi-use trails will allow hikers, bikes and horses. All trails will have a 30-foot easement. Where terrain allows, horses will have a separate trail within that 30-foot easement. All trails will remain natural (no asphalt, etc.) and will be maintained.

Staunton Park also plans a "net zero energy" consumption. At full build-out, structures will consist of 36,750 square feet and use renewable energy, such as solar, biomass, and micro-hydro. It is estimated the park structures will use approximately 204,000 kilowatt hours per year. That is one half of the energy load being used at Golden Gate State Park west of Golden.

State Parks anticipates the park will be phased in, with an opening date for hikers only in 2012. Before the park can open, the grade-separated intersection at U.S. 285 and Shaffers Crossing and park trail improvements must be completed.

Currently, the park has one employee, manager Scott Roush. Next to be hired will be a maintenance person, then a ranger. At full build-out, four full-time employees and two seasonal employees are planned.

Parks staff member Kristi Quintana said they would update the State Parks' board of directors on the Conifer open house meeting in May. State Parks will adopt the final master plan after the next public meeting sometime this summer. Quintana said adoption would be in July or September.

Woodside Park resident Briggs Cunningham raised wildfire danger and evacuation issues. Herd said the planning team would be meeting with local fire districts soon to get input on necessary emergency egress. He said State Parks may plan to keep a fire truck on site 24/7 to reduce any fire spreading from its original location. Emergency egresses will be developed after meeting with fire districts.

"I give state parks an A for effort in involving the public," said Cunningham. "The plan is much better than the one proposed five years ago."

Elk Falls resident Les Hartshorn was also upbeat about the preliminary master plan. "We have lived in Elk Falls for 18 years and always knew the park would be developed. I think the plan is wonderful. It preserves the park and the wildlife and keeps the developers out," he said.

Burland resident Ron Spunt suggested stalls and drinking troughs be added for overnight campers with horses.

Park County Commissioner and Woodside Park resident Dick Hodges voiced his support of the plan. "When we moved here, we knew the park would be developed," he said. "State Parks did careful planning to keep camping away from the populated areas. I was pleasantly surprised and support the master plan."

Vera Dunwody, Elk Falls Ranch owner, said, "In a community such as ours, the Master Plan is an attribute not only to the locals but to the state in general. It is what it's supposed to be - a benefit for all."

Tom Eisenman, Park County Development Services Coordinator and member of the Staunton Park Master Plan Advisory Committee, said he complimented State Parks on the planning process and for listening to public input and incorporating it into the plan.

"At one point they stepped back and asked for more input as the public requested. This is a model project, taking into account the environmentally sensitive areas and geological hazard areas," he said.

"I'm happy with the outcome and compliment the design team," Eisenman added.

Drew Kramer, a member of the design team, credited the state's approach to the task. "State Parks told us to take our time and do it right," he said.

More information on the preliminary master plan can be found at http://www.stauntonpark.com. Comments on the plan may be submitted through the Web site until the final master plan is presented and adopted.

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Comment:  As a follow-up to this article, I have added a few photos of some of the posters used during the Staunton Master Plan Open House.  You may also find them informative.  Just click on the following link.

Staunton Park Preliminary Master Plan

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