Brush clearing won’t affect popular stretch of midvalley trail | AspenTimes.com

Brush clearing won’t affect popular stretch of midvalley trail

BASALT – A crew of 10 to 20 workers will start clearing brush along the upper Arbaney-Kittle Trail possibly as soon as Wednesday, but it won’t change the scenery along a popular 1.2-mile stretch that most hikers use.

The work will occur about four miles from the Holland Hills trailhead, according to Phil Nyland, a biologist with the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District of the Forest Service. Most day hikers use the first 1.2 miles of the trail and then stop at a great vantage point on a ridge.

“It’s on the same trail but well past where most of the day hikers go,” Nyland said.

However, the Forest Service and Colorado Parks and Wildlife want hikers to be aware that the workers will use all-terrain vehicles on the trail to transport themselves and their equipment to the site. The chain-saw crew will head up the trail in early mornings and come back down in late afternoons. The project is expected to last about three weeks, weather permitting.

Nyland said the purpose is to improve habitat for mule deer on 180 acres of Arbaney Mesa. The crew will use chain saws to cut oak brush, serviceberry and mountain mahogany. The brush stems will be cut at ground level, and the trunks will be cut into small sections and scattered at the site. Decadent, diseased and dead brush will be targeted. About 25 percent of the healthy, standing brush will be left standing along with all sage brush, according to Nyland.

About 40 acres of terrain just west of this year’s project were treated last year. The work is in the Bionaz Gulch area, one drainage west of the more widely known Wheatley Gulch.

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Nyland said state wildlife officials have identified the project area as some of the most important habitat for mule deer in the Aspen district. The land provides great winter range because of its remoteness. No motorized uses are allowed in the area. The mesa is also situated so it receives sun and is windswept, so it often is free of snow even in wet winters.

Nyland said the project site is too far from the popular vantage point on the main stem of the Arbaney-Kittle Trail for hikers to notice.

“It would be impossible for people doing that short stretch to hear chain saws or see activity,” he said.

scondon@aspentimes.com