Jill Beathard

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May 15, 2012
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Town Council to take up plan for Sky Mountain Park

SNOWMASS VILLAGE - Town Council members on Monday will be asked to approve the final draft of the management plan for Sky Mountain Park, the collection of open space parcels acquired by the town of Snowmass Village, city of Aspen and Pitkin County Open Space and Trails. The individual property owners can determine how to regulate trail usage on their own parcels, and one of the issues to be ironed out is whether and where dogs will be allowed on the town's land.

The goal is for the three jurisdictions to approve the plan in May so they can begin implementing it this summer, said Hunt Walker, of the public works department. At last week's council meeting, Walker said the goal is for all three governments to agree on the same plan, but the individual owners can make decisions about their properties, in the case of Snowmass Village that includes the upper North Mesa and the Hidden Valley portion.

The town acquired the 650 acres of the Upper North Mesa, part of the Horse Ranch subdivision, in 1991 primarily for the protection of wildlife, which Walker said is why there's a prohibition on dogs on Rim Trail North along the edge of the land parcel. In the past much of the general public took dogs up that portion of the trail anyway, but Walker said he brought the rule to the council's attention more than a year ago.

"According to (town attorney) John Dresser, in order to change anything within that ordinance you would have to get unanimous agreement from every property owner in Horse Ranch for anything to change," Walker said at the meeting.

In the Hidden Valley portion of Sky Mountain Park, acquired by the town of Snowmass Village in 1994, dogs are currently allowed on the Highline and Lowline trails.

Walker said the planning team isn't looking to prohibit dogs on trails they're already allowed on. Dogs increase the impact trails have on wildlife habitat, but by not allowing dogs on any new trails, more trails can be constructed, Walker said.

"The reason why we're able to do all these trails is because there's no dogs (on those trails)," Walker said.

Walker said the goal of the three governments as a group is to "keep allowing dogs on Lowline and Highline, but since they're not going to allow dogs on the Droste portion of the Sky Mountain Park, and I don't think that'll ever change, the goal would be to not allow dogs on Viewline up. ... Technically you could allow dogs on Viewline up until the Droste property but from our point of view that just doesn't make sense because they'll continue to go on up into the Droste propery where it will be banned."

Walker said a ban on dogs east of Highline is what he thinks is the best solution, but the council could decide to do something different.

Mayor Bill Boineau said he personally would prefer to have a sign on the Droste line stating that dogs are not allowed beyond that point.

"I do like taking my dogs up these trails and coming right back down," Boineau said. "So I don't see that as a problem."

Walker said it's "kind of the eleventh hour" for the plan, but the public may speak their opinions on the plan at the council meeting. The overall plan will not change, but the council can make its own decisions about the properties the town owns, although he said its decisions will have ramifications on the rest of Sky Mountain Park.

The planning team, made up of representatives from the town of Snowmass Village, the city of Aspen parks and recreation department and the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails board, has been working on the management plan since November.

Also on the agenda for the May 21 council meeting is a report on the quarterly business plan for group sales and a proposal from the Viceroy Hotel asking for the opportunity to put up a tent in Lot 7 if a client or party has a special event.

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The Aspen Times Updated May 15, 2012 05:54PM Published May 15, 2012 05:48PM Copyright 2012 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.