Open Space and Summit County commissioners discuss the benefits of single-use vs. multi-use trails

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Silverthorne local Karina Possenti had three encounters with unleashed dogs in two days. While she isn’t allergic to or has an extreme phobia of dogs, she said she simply doesn’t like dogs and struggles when one rushes her on a hiking trail. 

She recognized that Summit County is an extremely dog-friendly area and added that she always expects to see them. However, she prefers to see them either on a leash or under the voice control of their owner, she said.

But this doesn’t only affect her, she added. On two different instances, she said she witnessed pedestrians become fearful around other people’s dogs while out in public. 

The first was a family on a trail who became very scared at just the proximity of leashed dogs on the trail. The other was a woman Possenti saw at the Dillon marina who “almost jumped in the lake” because an unleashed dog got close to her and her partner. 

Possenti said she loves multi-use trails and doesn’t want that to change.

However, she added, “I just think everyone has a responsibility to use the trail for what they’re doing as its lined out in whatever the rules for this particular trail are.”

During their public comment period, the Open Space and Trails Department heard a desire for conflict management for sharing of trails between dogs, bikes, electric bikes, hikers and motorized vehicles. 

Summit County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said she’s heard comments from the public about proper trail etiquette for bikers versus hikers. Because some trails are narrow and others are steep and they all have such different uses, Lawrence said there can be conflict about the proper way to share. 

She recognized that if rules are not followed, it could create danger on the trail.

“When people are clipped into their bike and shoes — and you have a dog approaching you and you can’t move and you can’t stop — I mean it’s a real dangerous situation,” she said.

At the Summit Board of County Commissioners meeting this Tuesday, July 5, King reported the public had asked for more support on multi-use trails. This sparked a conversation about why the public may have expressed interest in supporting them. 

“I think maybe it’s a reflection of recognizing that there’s only so much land to go around,” King said. “Where it’s practical and feasible from a natural resource impact perspective to provide single-use trails, we could consider that, but we’re not going to be able to do that in all cases.”

Instead of creating more single-use trails, the increased support for multi-use trails could help them to become more regulated and organized.

King said there has been a want for single-use trails in the county, but she also recognized that it’s not feasible to create many single-use trails that will meet everyone’s needs. 

Laura Rossetter, who came to the meeting as a Summit County local and as part of the Open Space and Trails Committee, commended the trails department for the work they were doing and also supported what King said about the limit with single use trails. 

She had many points to add, but one that hadn’t been brought up yet was the financial aspect of building and maintaining trails. Whether they are multi-use or single use, they do cost money. Therefore, she said there is a need to be discretionary about why there should be a single-use trail and if the issue can first be solved with education. 

Elisabeth Lawrence, who said she highly values what Rossetter has to say, supported the idea of education and gave another insight as to why multi-use trails could benefit from increased oversight. There is an increase in capacity and a limited amount of space for trails.

“So now our job is — this land that we own through open space — how can we manage it in a better way?” Lawrence said. 

Lawrence continued on, “I do really think it’s about education, and that’s a hard job to do — to educate the visitors as well as locals and constantly get that message out.” 

On the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website,, more information can be found about proper ways to recreate on multi-use trails. Navigate to the drop down menu “Things to do,” under the heading “Outdoor recreation,” click on “Trails,” scroll down, click on the blue “Biking Information” hyperlink, and there will be a green box that says “Rules for multi-use trails.”