BLM reviews input on options for The Crown | AspenTimes.com

BLM reviews input on options for The Crown

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Jim Paussa/paussa.com

CARBONDALE – As Bureau of Land Management officials sift through various options to manage The Crown – a roughly 9,100-acre playground southwest of Carbondale – one thing seems certain: Somebody’s not going to be happy.

The BLM, as part of its work on a draft resource management plan, is considering four potential options for managing The Crown, an area popular with both motorized users and mountain bikers, among others. Comments on the four alternatives have been collected from various agencies and an advisory council made up of user-group representatives, according to Karl Mendonca, associate field manager for the BLM’s regional field office in Silt.

Some of the options would establish The Crown as a special management recreation area similar to Red Hill, a network of mountain biking/hiking trails north of Carbondale. Such areas are managed for particular recreational uses, Mendonca said.

Steve Bennett, regional field manager for the BLM, predicted last spring that The Crown would see greater management.

“We know it’s being impacted and needs more intensive management than it has gotten in the past,” he told Pitkin County commissioners during an April discussion on a host of topics.

One potential alternative under consideration essentially maintains the status quo – a mix of foot/horse trails, mountain bike trails and routes categorized as motorcycle trails, plus dirt roads that accommodate full-sized vehicles and everything else. Cross-country travel is permitted; it’s not limited to designated routes. In all, the BLM has mapped close to 70 miles of roads and trails on The Crown.

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Currently, the area is closed to motorized uses from Dec. 1 through April 30. That’s a closure that Kevin Wright, district wildlife manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, would like to see expanded to all uses.

“The Crown is a tremendous point of contention,” he told commissioners at another meeting in May. “It should be closed to winter use, period. It’s critical wintertime habitat.”

Enforcement is an issue with the blanket closure Wright suggests, according to Mendonca.

“The challenge we have is the ability to implement a full closure,” he said.

A second alternative, forged with citizen input, contemplates a blend of uses, with a designated motorized loop in the northwest corner of the area. Roughly three-quarters of The Crown would be managed for mountain biking. Travel would be limited to designated routes, and the area would be closed annually to both biking and motorized use from Dec. 1 to April 15.

The Crown would be designated a special recreation management area under the alternative, which means the BLM would assess things like the need for parking, Mendonca said. At present, mountain bikers often park along the sides of Prince Creek Road.

A more restrictive alternative, aimed at resource conservation, would retain some trails for motorized and biking use, but it also calls for the closure of some existing trails. Travel would be limited to designated routes, and the area would be closed to motorized use and mountain biking from Dec. 1 to April 15.

A fourth alternative would create a special recreation management area with an emphasis on biking at The Crown. Trails would be designated; there would be a winter closure from Dec. 1 to April 15.

In all of the scenarios, the BLM is focusing on the management of existing trails, Mendonca said. New, bandit trails that pop up at the hands of the mountain biking community won’t be recognized in the plan, he said.

The BLM aims to release a final draft of the resource management plan for review next winter.

janet@aspentimes.com