Midvalley residents sent a message Wednesday that they want to use a Pitkin County open space parcel to coax greater wildlife-friendly management on adjacent federal lands.
Several speakers at a management meeting for the Glassier property spoke in favor of banning dogs so it would be tougher for people to take their pets onto the vast area known as the Crown, which is administered by the federal Bureau of Land Management.
Speakers also tended to favor keeping the Glassier property closed well into the spring to ensure that mountain bikers, hikers and equestrians didn’t interfere with deer and elk that are trying to pack on calories after surviving the winter.
Longtime midvalley resident Ted Guy said it is important for Pitkin County to “do what’s right” with the dog policy even if the BLM doesn’t prohibit dogs on the Crown.
“Absolutely no dogs,” he said.
Doing what’s right, for him, also means following the advice of Colorado Parks and Wildlife on a winter closure for the benefit of deer, elk and other wildlife.
The wildlife division lobbied the BLM to implement a winter closure from Dec. 1 through April 30. The BLM’s proposed management plan calls for the closure to end on April 15 instead.
“We’ve been harping on the recreation aspect for a few years,” said John Groves, district wildlife manager for the Carbondale area.
The Prince Creek Road access to the Crown, on the southern side, has experienced increasing pressure through the winter and early spring from riders of fat-tired bikes and hikers with dogs, he said. That affects deer and elk eating and moving patterns, he said. Birth rates of both ungulates have dropped, according to Groves.
That’s why Colorado Parks and Wildlife is pressing hard to maintain prohibited winter access on the northern side of the Crown — so the pressure won’t be magnified. The Glassier property is key in that strategy.
What’s now known as Glassier is about 275 acres in the Emma area, off Hook Spur Road. It was the result of two open space purchases made by Pitkin and Eagle counties, with assistance from Basalt. Pitkin County is working on the management plan for the combined lands.
Glassier is a critical gateway property to the Crown, an area that’s experienced explosive recreation use in the past decade, mostly from mountain bikers. What happens at Glassier will greatly affect the Crown.
Pitkin County Open Space and Trails is holding monthly meetings with the Glassier Steering Committee to create a management plan. It will take several more months to complete. The meetings are designed to gather a wide range of ideas without pitting different users against one another.
“It’s not an us-versus-them situation at all,” said Gary Tennenbaum, assistant director of the open space program.
A big part of the open space’s future will be agriculture. The steering committee is working on rules for leasing various-sized parcels on the valley floor for agriculture uses.
The other key issue is the recreational use of Glassier, particularly as access to the Crown.
The BLM’s proposed land-management plan for the Crown contemplates creating a special recreation management area that would give a preference to mountain biking, said Greg Wolfgang, a recreation planner with the agency.
One woman, who didn’t identify herself at Wednesday’s meeting, asked why mountain bikers got a preference over equestrians and hikers. Another woman in the audience answered, “It seems like the equestrian community wasn’t there to lobby at the time.”
Wolfgang acknowledged that the mountain-biking community was effective at expressing its desires during an eight-year process.
“There was a bunch of people that wanted to see mountain biking in the Crown. There was a bunch of people that didn’t want to see mountain biking on the Crown,” he said.
It’s clear that mountain biking will be a big part of the Crown’s future.
“This is the management plan for the next 20 to 30 years,” Wolfgang said.
Mike Pritchard, director of the Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association, said the group would work with the BLM on a plan to add 12 to 15 miles of singletrack trails on the Crown. That might create the opportunity to get bikers off less desirable and less sustainable double-track routes, he said. That could open up opportunities for dedicated trails for equestrians.
There was no audience consensus about when the Glassier property’s winter closure should end. However, Pitkin County government might have tipped its hand by appealing to the BLM to adopt the wildlife division’s suggestion for a closure through April 30.
Guy said doing the right thing, in the case of the closure, is going with the later date for the benefit of wildlife on the Crown.
“We’re doing our best to screw it up already,” he said.
“It’s not an us versus them situation at all.”
Gary Tennenbaum, Pitkin County Open Space and Trails