Community input sought on Sand Wash Recreation Area Management Plan

Community members gather around a map of the South Sand Wash Recreation Area during a May 4 public meeting to learn about proposed improvement projects and to offer their input on how to moving forward with the improvement plan.
Amber Delay/Craig Press

The Bureau of Land Management’s local Little Snake office is seeking community input on a Recreation Area Management Plan for the South Sand Wash Open Off-Road Vehicle Area.

BLM is partnering with the Craig Chamber of Commerce and the Northwest Colorado Outdoor Coalition to begin the process of developing a Recreation Area Management Plan for the South Sand Wash OHV area.

Chris Maestas, public affairs specialist at the Little Snake field office, said the BLM office had already mapped the recreation area in the sandpit and the plan sought to improve the area.

“We’re just trying to make it a better experience for everyone,” Maestas said.

There were two public meetings in Craig and Maybell on May 4 and 5 to provide information about the project and gather community feedback. The recreation management plan will be the action plan for working towards future goals in this recreation area.

The two public meetings mark the beginning of the public scoping process that will help prioritize improvement projects in the plan. BLM will also be collecting feedback via email and mail until June 3.

Over the summer, BLM will conduct outreach and draft alternative plans based on feedback received from the community. By fall, the recreation area management plan and associated environmental assessment will be completed. BLM hopes to have a finalized plan by late fall.

Under the National Environmental Policy Act, federal agencies are required to assess the environmental impacts of proposed actions before making decisions. The sand wash basin is intended for multiple uses, so recreational improvements should also consider surrounding areas, wildlife and herd management.

“When we’re looking at making improvements, we have to look at everything,” Maestas said.

The management plan aims to improve the ORV open area in several ways, such as improving camping infrastructure, maintaining recreational facilities, and the long-term sustainability of the area. The plan will also identify areas that could benefit from better signage and interpretive resources.

Examples of the types of infrastructure improvements that could be included in the plan would be an established campground, a large staging area for ORV users, outhouses, and shade structures. There may also be potential for an ORV rental facility.

Examples of the types of resources that could be included in the improvement plan would be map brochures, ATV trail guides with trail ratings, and information on interpreting resources along the trail network.

Area improvements are intended to support larger efforts to increase recreation in Moffat County to support community economic development, while protecting natural and cultural resources.

According to town hall presentation materials from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, $689 billion is generated nationally in outdoor recreation activities and 4.3 million jobs have been created in outdoor recreation across the country.

The economic impact of outdoor recreation has a far-reaching impact across the state. In Colorado, outdoor recreation generates $37 billion in consumer spending annually and supports 511,000 jobs.

Comments can be emailed to [email protected] or mailed to Attn: South Sand Wash OHV Area Recreation Plan, Little Snake Field Office, 455 Emerson Street, Craig, CO 81625. Written comments should be received by June 3.

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