Basalt Mountain road and trail protected in new deal, BLM says | AspenTimes.com

Basalt Mountain road and trail protected in new deal, BLM says

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BASALT – A driveway for a new development at the base of Basalt Mountain cuts a swath through public land but won’t interfere with use of trails or a road in the popular area, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

The BLM granted an easement for the driveway to Golden Triangle Holdings LLC, which is building “four or five” home sites on the north side of Spring Park Reservoir in Missouri Heights, according to BLM documents. Golden Triangle, a firm from Metarie, La., needed the easement for access to its160-acre parcel, and homeowners will eventually use the driveway as well.

Heavy machinery has cut a swath 50 feet wide and about one-quarter mile long through Gambel oak, service berry and chokecherry over the last month. (That vegetation happens to be prime food for black bears.) An old, narrow two-track Jeep road used to exist along the route. About one acre of vegetation was affected by the widening for the driveway, according to BLM calculations.

The road work got the attention of mountain bikers, dirt bikers and hikers who use Basalt Mountain, which is part of the White River National Forest. The driveway temporarily shut off access to a rock-strewn, 1-mile band of singletrack that climbed from the BLM parcel to the U.S. Forest Service parking lot on lower Basalt Mountain.

BLM spokesman David Boyd said the driveway won’t interfere with that singletrack in the long run. There will be formal space or at least “a wide spot” in the driveway where the public will be able to park vehicles for access to the lower end of the trail, he said. Trail access is a condition of the BLM granting the easement for the driveway.

Golden Triangle’s development will also have a minor effect on winter access for cross-country skiers, hikers and snowmobilers. The new driveway is located 1 mile past the winter closure gate on Forest Road 509, the primary route up Basalt Mountain.

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Golden Triangle was given permission to plow the road for that additional mile, Boyd said. However, it must leave an 8-foot-wide swath unplowed on the north side for use by skiers, snowmobiles and hikers, he said. The agreement means the distance of terrain available for winter use will remain unchanged.

The existing winter closure gate will be converted into an electronic swing arm that homeowners in the new subdivision will use. Each homeowner will have a code that activates the gate.

The existing manual gate will be moved a mile up the road, just past where the new driveway splits off of Forest Road 509, Boyd said. The locked, manual gate will ensure the homeowners of the new subdivision cannot drive farther up the road during winters.

Boyd said the BLM receives multiple requests per year for easements across land it manages. A critical step in assessing the requests is to look for other alternatives. “In this case, this was the best option,” Boyd said.

The only alternative was an old access road to Golden Triangle’s property from the south. “However, this road was not useable, and the majority of the road is under water,” said the BLM’s Environmental Assessment on the driveway. Reconstruction of that road would have had a greater impact on public lands than allowing the old two track to be widened and flattened, the study concluded.

The BLM approved the easement in September 2008, right before the recession hit hardest. Golden Triangle started construction on the road last month.

scondon@aspentimes.com