Friday, April 30, 2021

A Plan to Repair the Palisades: Is there finally some steam behind it?

In 2016, an avalanche above the rock wall at the Palisades damaged the wall so severely that motorized
access to the west portal of Alpine Tunnel was blocked.  On December 3rd of 2020, the National Forest Foundation submitted an application to the OHV Subcommittee and the State Trails Committee to begin the "Alpine Tunnel and Palisades Repair Project." 
The entire proposal can be found here.

The project, referenced by the author of the proposal as "an ambitious plan" is a group effort of the "The National Forest Foundation, in partnership with the USDA Forest Service, Gunnison Ranger District of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre & Gunnison National Forests; Colorado Off-road Enterprise (CORE); and Ute Pass Iron Goats."  It's goal is to restore "OHV access to the Alpine Tunnel Road and Palisades Wall."

Phase 1: "Provide OHV the Alpine Tunnel from Williams Pass, and reopen partial access (to dirt bikes) from the junction of Tomichi Pass Trail to Alpine Tunnel.  This will be accomplished through rock scaling and road clearing along the Alpine Tunnel Road from the Sherrod Loop to the west portal."

Phase 2: To open "the 9.8-mile Alpine Tunnel Road and Palisades Wall....This will be achieved through repair and historical rehabilitation of the Palisades Wall and damaged section of the Alpine Tunnel Road."

Timing: "We anticipate starting the project in summer of 2021 or summer of 2022, pending available funding....We anticipate completing the full project by the end of 2023."

Funding: "The NFF would be excited to acknowledge and credit the Colorado State Trails OHV grant program for funding in a variety of ways."  They project $90,100.00 from this grant.  There is also a Polaris Grant listed as pending "to support rock scaling and removal during phase one" for $15,000.  Also listed is the USDA Forest Service, Great American Outdoors Act (pending) for $40,000.  With contributions estimated at $6528, the total for the project is listed as $151,628.

Need: Much is listed in the proposal.  Of interest is the following: "In addition to impacting visitors, this closure (of access to the west portal) has significantly impacted nearby communities.  For example, the Statutory Town of Pitkin...calls itself the 'Gateway to the Alpine Tunnel.'  The Alpine Tunnel-generated tourism that Pitkin depends on has been significantly affected by the closure."  Also, "Now that the site is damaged, it is more susceptible to future damage and degradation."

The following drawings, found at the end of the application, are from the Forest Service's work beginning in 2017-2018.


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