Bruin trouble swamps Aspen | AspenTimes.com
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Bruin trouble swamps Aspen

Janet Urquhart

Aspen needs to double its enforcement staff to keep up with complaints about bears getting into garbage and ought to beef up its trash-container laws as well, according to a city official.The city’s parking department handles enforcement of Aspen’s wildlife ordinance, but the sole officer assigned to that duty this summer isn’t enough, parking supervisor Tim Ware told the City Council on Monday. He often has to assign a second individual to that duty.”It’s just overwhelming for us at this point,” Ware said. Lee Gettman, the city’s code enforcement officer, is handling 50 to 60 calls a week about trash violations and dealing with about 25 instances of compromised trash receptacles a day. About 30 citations have been issued thus far.Local wildlife officials have called this summer the worst bear season in memory, as hungry bruins cruise for garbage after a late-June freeze decimated much of the acorn and berry crop.The council budgeted $15,000 for wildlife ordinance enforcement this summer; Ware recommended doubling that sum in 2005.He also suggested the city follow Pitkin County’s lead in banning the outdoor storage of garbage in wildlife-resistant, plastic containers. The 90-gallon carts on wheels have reinforced lids and a locking mechanism, but bears are getting into them regularly in Aspen’s residential neighborhoods.”They’re just no longer working,” Ware said. “The bears, you know, they laugh at them.”On the other hand, problems in the commercial core are minimal, he reported. Locked, steel Dumpsters have become the norm in the business district.The county is requiring residents to either convert to steel, locking containers or keep the plastic carts stored in garages or locked enclosures.The plastic carts cost $220; buying the steel variety would require residents to invest another $285, Ware said. There is no trade-in value for the plastic carts.”It seems to me there are more bears, period,” said Mayor Helen Klanderud, noting local attitudes about bears vary widely. Some people seem thrilled by the encounters, others are frightened, she said.”We’re dealing with a community that has a difference of opinion,” Klanderud said.Councilwoman Rachel Richards said she would entertain the request for a second enforcement officer next year, but she wants stiffer requirements for trash containers, too.”I believe we’re going to need to change the code,” she said. “There will eventually be a human/bear encounter that won’t be pretty.”Under the city’s existing ordinance, residents can actually put garbage out in a plastic bag or standard trash can on the day of collection, so long as it’s stored in a secure place until then. But if an animal gets into the garbage before it’s picked up, the resident can be held responsible.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com


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