JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Rangers with Jefferson County Open Space say winter is making a mess of their trails as bikers and hikers are detouring of path to avoid mud and ice. Lauren Keller lives near Apex Park and says her family use nearby trails year round.

“We go hiking, biking, skiing,” she said.

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While Keller knows winter trips mean more planning, Mary Ann Bonnell, a park ranger in Jefferson County says they are seeing more visitors who are less and less prepared.

“We have a real mixed bag on our trails right now,” Bonnell said.

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Ice-covered paths have been a big surprise for those hitting the trails and could be easily avoided with the right gear, but Bonnell says mud and those trying to avoid it are a bigger issue.

“You’re widening the trail. You’re trampling that vegetation that holds on for dear life because it is right on the edge of the trail anyway, and it helps keep that trail in place and keeps it from erosion and keeps it from unnecessary water damage,” Bonnell said.

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At times it’s reason enough to close access altogether, which Bonnell says not everyone seems to understand and have expressed in emails to their office. One such email stated “Why are you closing trails? I’m not worried about mud. It’s nature. It’s mud.”

“So they’re really not understanding that the mud closures are to protect the trails, not to protect the visitors,” she said.

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It makes sense to Keller, who knows any disappointment can be avoided with a little research.

“Check online. Usually it’s pretty clear. So follow directions. If it says the trail is closed, don’t go on the trail,” she said. “There’s so many options in Colorado. If the trail is closed just go somewhere else.”

Rangers recommend keeping some sort of traction device with you from November until April and suggest following them on Facebook and Twitter for updates on trail conditions. Hiking poles can also be helpful if trails are icy.

Karen Morfitt

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