Aspen, county unleash Smuggler plan |

Aspen, county unleash Smuggler plan

Katie Redding
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” Off-leash dogs could soon be allowed in Aspen’s backyard.

The new Smuggler Mountain Open Space management plan could allow unleashed dogs on Smuggler Mountain Road and the Hunter Creek cutoff trail. The dogs will have to be under voice and sight command, and owners will be required to pick up after their dog.

“This will be unique for Pitkin County and the city of Aspen Open Space program,” said Brian Flynn, of the proposed experiment. Flynn, the city of Aspen open space and special projects manager, explained that if that aspect of the proposal wins approval, these areas will be the only places in Pitkin County to allow off-leash dogs.

On Thursday, the staff of the city of Aspen and Pitkin County Open Space and Trails presented a preliminary draft of the Smuggler Mountain Open Space master plan to a joint session of the city and county open space boards.

The 250-acre space was purchased jointly, in parcels, by the city and the county over the past 16 years. With the addition of 180 acres in 2005, open space and trails has been working toward a permanent management plan.

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The proposed management plan also calls for a rerouting of the “bandit” mountain bike trail, commonly known as the Lollipop Trail, around what Flynn calls “sensitive areas.”

Flynn thought that with the help of the community, a reroute likely could be found. Gary Tennenbaum, Pitkin County open space and land steward, noted that officials had given this preliminary draft to the Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association, hoping for their comments.

The plan does keep motorized vehicles on the Smuggler Mountain Road, which Flynn says might surprise those users. Many motorized vehicle riders thought the plan would call for restricting the road to hikers and bikers, he said. He added that those users were very vocal about their desire to have the road open to motorized vehicles.

Smuggler Mountain Road is ” and will continue to be ” unique, said Flynn, because it is popular with such a wide variety of users: mountain-bikers, dog-walkers, dirtbike riders, hikers and more.

If the plan is adopted, users also could see the opening of much of the land that has been closed to the public for safety reasons. When the city and county purchased the last 180 acres from George Wilkinson, the land was full of trash and not in good condition for public use, said Flynn. Four weeks last summer were spent cleaning it up.

The city and county do intend to keep small sections of Smuggler Mountain Open Space closed because of mine shafts. Though the shafts have been closed at a level that meets minimum requirements provided by the Colorado Division of Reclamation and Mine Safety, staff at the open space and trails office felt that more should done before the public is invited in to those areas.

Board members were in general agreement Thursday. “We cannot, as a board, open an area for public use that has [mine shafts] as a threat,” said city of Aspen Open Space and Trails board member Boots Ferguson.

Once the boards make their initial changes to the draft, there will be a two-month public comment period before a final draft of the plan is ironed out. Flynn expected the public comment period to begin in July or August.

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