Up the Creek

Environmentalists are angling to stop a new Winter Park road.

Environmentalists aren't buying Winter Park's explanation that the road is solely an emergency precaution. "Do you really need a thirty-foot-wide trail to evacuate injured skiers on a snowmobile?" asks Smith. "I don't think so."

Winter Park has assured opponents that heavy machinery will not be used in building the road. But Nickum says the last time Winter Park did construction on Vasquez Cirque, in the mid-Eighties, the cutthroat population crashed from 3,000 to no more than 400. And while he admits that there is no absolute proof that the construction was to blame, he says it would be quite a coincidence if the two events weren't linked.

Wong, who has been the temporary district ranger for only a month and admits to being relatively uninformed about the situation, says he plans to send out a fisheries specialist next week to take a closer look at the condition of Vasquez Creek and the cutthroat before he signs off on Winter Park's road project.

But that's not enough for Colorado Trout Unlimited. The group wants the Forest Service to open a full-blown National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) investigation, a process that could delay Winter Park's plan to increase skiing activity next season on Vasquez Cirque.

"One field visit isn't enough to determine what the situation is up there," says Nickum. "NEPA was brought to pass in order to cover situations just like this. I want them to open it up to the public, lay everything on the table and make a careful decision." But Nickum fears that won't happen. "The ethic of the Forest Service is geared toward multiple use," he says. "It doesn't like to say no to ski areas."

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