Mountain Basin Project
The Heritage Area of Upper Clear Creek is comprised of the drainages of Clear Creek and South Clear Creek from Loveland Pass through Guanella Pass. The area contains the most accessible high mountain basins in the Front Range. Proximity to the metro region makes the area one of the most used National Forests for recreational purposes (Revised Forest Plan for the Arapaho Roosevelt National Forest). Further, lands within the Silver Heritage Area have multiple and competing uses. The Mountain Basin Project seeks to protect the most fragile of these lands, the Waldorf and Stevens Creek Basins, while providing for their multiple use.
The Waldorf and Stevens Creek Basins are directly accessed by USFS roads which tie to major transportation arteries. The Waldorf Basin road ties to the Guanella Pass Scenic and Historic By-Way and the Stevens Creek road to Interstate 70. Both the Guanella Pass By-Way and I70 are schedules for major improvements which will increase the use of the roads and increase the access to the adjoining forest roads. The presence and development of a nationally known trail system will attract greater recreational use. The Gray's Peak Trail in Stevens Creek Basin, Argentine Central Railroad Grade through Waldorf Basin, and Argentine Pass Trail through Waldorf Basin and over Argentine Pass are well established and the Continental Divide Trail through Stevens Creek and around the Waldorf Basin is being developed.
Additionally, the major portion of Clear Creek County's residential growth (30% over the past five years) is taking place in rural areas of the County. Rural sprawl is made possible by forest access roads leading to former mining areas where mining claims are zoned MR 1, meaning residential development is allowed. A common occurrence throughout Colorado's mining country, this practice has permitted dispersed development in remote areas which results in a loss of open space, damages fragile ecosystems, endangers wildlife habitat and affects water quality. Both of the project basins have a wide variety of land ownership, in addition to being intensively used for recreation. The threat from development to the health of the watershed and fragile ecosystems is imminent.
The Mountain Basin Project has developed the tools to be proactive in the protection of these basins while providing for multiple and complimentary uses. The project inventoried resources, identified ownerships, examined management plans and strategies, developed criteria for land acquisition and recommends actions for protection of the basins. The goal will not be reached through unilateral or local governmental agency action alone. Inholder input and public review of the mapping, analysis, recommendations, and action plans is essential to effective implementation.
The ecosystems of high mountain valleys are not resilient in the face of development. Clear Creek County and the State of Colorado have placed importance on the preservation of Colorado's open space, vistas, wildlife habitat and natural environment. This is an important piece.