Aspen open house focuses on Independence Pass improvements | AspenTimes.com

Aspen open house focuses on Independence Pass improvements

Chadwick Bowman
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – Independence Pass upgrades were the topic of a public forum Wednesday, in which planners were hoping to gauge public interest in the project.

Bluegreen, an Aspen planning and landscape architecture studio, is heading the project and looking to absorb public input for the second time about its planning progress – the first open house was in June. The goal is to improve travelers’ experience when driving the scenic byway.

Members of Bluegreen and the U.S. Forest Service guided about 30 people through the information about the upgrades, which was laid out in large poster form. Many who attended the forum were members of such organizations as the Independence Pass Foundation and the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, which have an interest in the proposed improvements.

The focus of much of the discussion concerned the summit of Independence Pass, where a plan had been laid out for improving parking and walkways as well as interpretive signs and restrooms.

Community members expressed many of the same concerns that they had at the first meeting, including the protection of the surrounding natural areas and how to make the summit, which is a heavily used scenic site, more efficient to more travelers.

Kristen Henry, the vice president on the board of directors for the Independence Pass Foundation, said most residents are concerned with the summit and that it is a priority for the scenic byway project.

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“[The summit] is the area that needs the most attention,” Henry said. “That’s why there is so much effort being put into it.”

Forest Service officials said parking at the summit can be chaotic. Also, concerns were raised by a few members who said motorists who stop can congest the highway for those who simply want to pass through.

“This is about capturing all of the ideas from the public. We can get a much better plan if we get feedback,” said Ryan Vugteveen, a Bluegreen associate. “We need to balance all of the users’ needs.”

Those who attended the June forum were shown pictures of different types of signs and building materials. They were told to share which ones they thought would look best and be most practical for the pass. Bluegreen then took that information and has been incorporating it into their plans.

Vugteveen said that nothing about the plan is permanent, and there will be another public forum in either November or December.

Some of those assisting in the project are anxious to see the plans finally implemented: “I’m excited about the final project,” said Bill Kight of the U.S. Forest Service. “This has been needed for a long time.”

For more information, go to http://www.topoftherockiesbyway.org

cbowman@aspentimes.com