With its easy accessibility to central Golden, proximity to Castle Rock above and views of downtown Golden below, the Lubahn Trail seems to be a hiker's dream. But in recent years, the same factors …
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According to the Stewards of Golden advocacy group, the trail was constructed by Colorado School of Mines professor Jack Lubahn, who lived nearby with his family at 19th Street and Table Drive. According to a post on the Stewards of Golden website, Lubahn would head out each day at 6:30 a.m. to work on the trail before being at Mines by 8:30 a.m. The current trail took six years to finish and was completed in 1971.
To build the switchbacks, Lubahn had to move boulders weighing up to 2 tons using only a block and tackle pulley. A marker honoring Lubahn can be found on the trail.
With its easy accessibility to central Golden, proximity to Castle Rock above and views of downtown Golden below, the Lubahn Trail seems to be a hiker's dream.
But in recent years, the same factors that make the trail so attractive have combined to make it into something of a nightmare for the city of Golden officials charged with managing the trail as an ever-increasing deluge of trail users has caused damage that threatens the trail's stability. While most of South Table Mountain's trails are under the jurisdiction of Jefferson County Open Space, the Lubahn Trail is property of the city of Golden.
“The trail has been around for a long time and it is in really poor condition,” said Rod Tarullo, the director of Golden's parks department. “There's probably a variety of reasons for that but it was never really built to today's trail standards and we have a lot more people using our trails then we did in past years.”
One of the trail's biggest current issues is erosion of both it and surrounding land, which is often exacerbated by damage to the trail's rock edges caused by hikers and bikers who have taken short-cuts along the trail doing damage to the rock walls that make up the trail's edges.
The situation has gotten so bad that the parks department now considers the trail's current configuration unsustainable and the city's parks, recreation and museums board is now looking into options to address the situation.
Tarullo said that while this process is still in its early stages, there is no shortage of options when it comes to what the city could ultimately do about the trail.
“We could go in and redesign the trail to more of today's standards which would probably require some level of relocation,” he said. “We could close the trail, or we could potentially make a loop of that trail to go up towards the top of the city's property and then connect it to the Olivine trail, which is just to the south.”
Unlike the Lubahn Trail, the new Olivine Trail, which is located to the south of the Lubahn Trail and offers similar access to North Table Mountain, is on Jefferson County Open Space land.
Among the challenges with the trail are the nature of its location and topography, which Jeffco Open Space spokesman Matt Robbins said is not suited to lots of traffic and makes addressing damage caused by shortcutting particularly difficult.
“It's really hard in locations with that slope and that type of soil component to get anything to re-veg there,” he said. “It's not a place where you can sprinkle some seed and have it grow back — it faces to the south and west so it gets a lot of sun and just gets beat up.”
On Feb. 2, several members of the city's parks board met with staff from JCOS to walk the trail, assess the damage and discuss some of those options.
Robbins said the plan is now for JCOS officials to create a document outlining what JCOS thinks can and should be done with the trail and present it at the parks, recreation and museum's board March meeting on March 18 at 6 p.m. That meeting will be accessible via the city of Golden website.
While the trail is under city jurisdiction, Tarullo said the city feels it makes sense to consult with JCOS on possible options because that agency has more expertise managing hiking trails like the Lubahn.
While erosion is the most pressing issue when it comes to the sustainability of the trail itself, Tarullo said concerns about the lack of parking at the trailhead (which is located near homes just north of the intersection of 18th Street and Belvedere Drive) and the common usage of the trail as a means of getting to Castle Rock would need to be addressed in any decision making process about the trail's future.
The latter is a concern, Tarullo said, because Castle Rock is located on private land and the city does not want to imply that it is OK for the public to trespass on that land.
That challenge was underscored by an online survey that found that 253 respondents say they use the trail to access Castle Rock, the second most chosen of the five options for reasons for using the trail listed on the survey after exercise.
Tarullo said the survey also confirmed that there is a lot for the city to take into account, as feelings appear to vary greatly depending on “if you are a Mines student trying to get to Castle Rock or someone living in the neighborhood there.”
However, there was one takeaway that stood out above the others, Tarullo said.
“I think it showed that there are a lot of perspectives and views but that the trail is well-loved,” he said.
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