Proposed Shadow Mountain Bike Park near Conifer faces uphill climb as neighbors sound off

The name is new but the questions from neighbors about a proposed 250-acre mountain bike park near Conifer remain the same.

How will Shadow Mountain Bike Park — formerly known as Full Send Bike Ranch — impact wildlife, traffic, water, wildfire danger and the tranquility of life in the foothills of Jefferson County?

“From a point of simple beauty, it’s one of the most scenic spots in Jeffco,” Neil Whitehead III, a resident who lives just two miles up Shadow Mountain Drive from the proposed bike park site, told The Denver Post. “It’s putting a major commercial development in a well-established residential area.”

Those concerns, and many others, were voiced Wednesday evening during a virtual community meeting about the project, which would be Colorado’s first dedicated chairlift-access mountain bike park — with 16 miles of trails and an 830-foot vertical drop.

The meeting drew around 300 people at its start, and the discussion went on for nearly four hours. Many long-time residents said a downhill mountain biking facility is not an appropriate use for a quiet community tucked away at 9,000 feet in a hilly, forested area just a few miles from Conifer.

“You are moving into my backyard, I’m not moving into your backyard,” an attendee who opposes the project told the team behind it.

Much of the focus was on traffic on Shadow Mountain Drive, a narrow two-lane road with blind curves that would be the sole access to the bike park. Project leaders said there would be no more than 500 vehicles a day trying to reach the park on a busy day.

Others worried about wildfire danger from visitors hitting Shadow Mountain’s trails — a flicked cigarette from a moving car, perhaps — that could start a conflagration in an area with plenty of fuel to burn.

Jason Evans, one of the principals behind the project, said he and his business partner, Phil Bouchard, are intent on being good neighbors and keeping impacts to a minimum. Not only would Shadow Mountain Bike Park not operate at night or during the winter, it won’t feature a restaurant or bar, he told attendees.

“This will be a seasonal, day-use park,” Evans said at Wednesday’s meeting, trying to allay concerns about excessive noise or light at the park. “We don’t want to be a big, bright scary neighbor.”

Bouchard and Evans say Shadow Mountain Bike Park will help provide concentrated relief for overused bike trails in Jefferson County, while providing jobs and revenues for the state. The bike park would operate on land leased from the State Land Board.

And it wouldn’t be just a gnarly course for experts looking for steep inclines and rocks to clear. The bike park would be geared to giving anyone of any skill level a place to ride, the project’s backers say.

But Ellen Keckler, one of the lead opponents of the project, said “our health, safety and the wildlife” are still top line concerns for her and her neighbors. She said more than 5,000 people have signed a petition opposing the bike park and they will be closely following its progress as it goes through the Jefferson County land use process over the next few months.

“There’s not one person I know of up here that has backed down in any way,” Keckler said. “It’s not that we oppose a bike park — this is not the right place.”

Shadow Mountain Bike Park has been in the planning stages for nearly two years, but Bouchard and Evans think they will finally get their application into the county next month. It may take until 2023 before they can get through both the county’s planning commission and be considered for approval from the county commissioners.

They now have an ally in their quest — the Colorado Mountain Bike Association, which is listed as a partner of Shadow Mountain Bike Park on the park’s website.

Gary Moore, the group’s executive director, said the two groups are not financially connected but do have similar goals.

“We are hoping to help them create something that will appeal to the local MTBers, and hopefully they will have the opportunity to support our mission of improving trail experiences on public lands,” Moore said. “We want to do what we can to connect this proposed bike park to the community of local riders and see that it will be the experiential piece of the puzzle that is needed to give riders the chance to enjoy this type of riding in the right environment, away from multi-use trails.”

Bouchard said working with the Colorado Mountain Bike Association going forward makes sense.

“We’re trying to expand access to the sport we love, they are too,” he said.

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