Thursday, Dec. 11, 2008 | 9:06 p.m.
Outdoor enthusiasts may have new trails in the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area by 2010. Residents can weigh in on how many trails and where they should go through Jan. 9.
Caireen Ulepic, who attended an open house Tuesday in Henderson on the trail project, said she favors putting in all of the proposed 66 miles of trails in the 48,000-acre wilderness on the southeast edge of Henderson. The Bureau of Land Management is also proposing to develop fewer miles of trails or to leave the area undeveloped.
"If you're going to put so much effort into it, you might as well go all the way," said Ulepic, an avid hiker who lives about five miles from Sloan Canyon.
Ursula Booth, who has hiked in the area for 25 years with her husband, Howard, doesn't want the BLM to overdo it. She thinks 66 miles of trails is too much.
"I prefer less than 10 miles," she said. "Because then you are destroying the wilderness character and the feeling that you are outdoors."
They agreed that a trail system would improve areas that have become dumping grounds or unauthorized all-terrain vehicle routes.
"It's like a forbidden fruit," said Steve Howland, a desert explorer for 15 years. "If you close it up, more people will want to come. And if you plan the trails carefully you can direct people to where you want them to go."
BLM planners will decide on a plan by next August with construction set to begin in November 2009, said Robbie McAboy, the BLM's lead Sloan Canyon outdoor recreation planner.
"We want to make sure we give people the real, on-your-own, back country kind of experience," she said.
BLM officials also want trails for those desiring some direction. The trails would have a native or decomposed granite surface. The estimated cost of construction has not yet been determined.
The project, which was funded through the sale of an adjacent BLM parcel to a residential developer, will not be delayed by recession, BLM officials said.
Sloan Canyon, southeast of Henderson, was designated as a conservation area in 2002.
Howard Booth said he recalled being on a helicopter tour with Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., when the senator identified the area's future.
"He pointed down to the ground and said, 'This is going to be wilderness,'" Booth said.
Sloan Canyon could have designated trails for mountain biking on as much as 7,000 acres, hiking on as much as 13,000 acres and equestrian trails along as much as 6,000 acres. The remaining acreage would be for wilderness cross-country exploring, according to plans.
Most of the proposed trail routes would be built on existing hiking paths, in washes or along unauthorized ATV routes.
A $530,000 planning contract to Colorado contractor EDAW was awarded this year. The trails for hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians will connect to Henderson's Open Space and Trails Plan, the Anthem Trails System and the proposed McCullough Hills Trail.
Becky Bosshart can be reached at 990-7748 or [email protected].