Changes coming to popular Aspen-area wilderness areas
The U.S. Forest Service is planning to limit overnight use at Conundrum Hot Springs and along the Four Pass Loop Trail because of overuse and “tremendous impacts.”
That’s according to Karen Schroyer, district ranger for the Aspen Sopris Ranger District, who met with Pitkin County commissioners Tuesday to provide updates on various Forest Service issues.
Schroyer said after the meeting that it isn’t yet clear when a reservation system will be implemented for the two popular backcountry Aspen-area destinations because she and others need to research how other areas have successfully done so. However, she said it needs to happen soon.
“We’ve got people camping everywhere out there,” Schroyer said. “People are building campfires right next to streams and are creating tremendous impacts.”
She said she hiked the Four Pass Trail a year ago during Labor Day, a time with lots of hikers, so she could assess the impacts firsthand. Schroyer said she was torn by the natural beauty of the area and having to share it with 30 other people.
“Right now we’re exceeding the standards for Conundrum (Hot Springs) and Four Loop Pass,” she said. “We really have a responsibility to do some better management.”
Wilderness rangers in 2013 hauled out 586 pounds of garbage from the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness, including 164 pounds from Conundrum Hot Springs alone. They buried 175 piles of human waste, found evidence of 307 illegal fires, 107 illegal campsites and encountered 244 dogs off-leash, Schroyer said in a informal meeting about the subject in February.
Another crowded, popular, Aspen outdoors area also will see some changes come next season. Forest Service officials are working on a long-term plan for the put-in at Wildwood Lane for the North Star Nature Preserve, Schroyer said.
The Forest Service owns the put-in but wants to turn over management of it to the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails program, Schroyer said. They are hoping that they can amend a law enforcement agreement with the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office to allow Open Space rangers to write tickets for violations at Wildwood, she said.
Commissioner George Newman wanted to know if that would allow the county to ban alcohol at the put-in, though Schroyer wasn’t sure that was possible.
The North Star Preserve features a calm section of the Roaring Fork River that has become extremely popular with boaters in recent years. Commissioners are grappling with how to control noise, alcohol and legions of boaters and floaters who float through the preserve.
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Studies by Colorado Parks and Wildlife show the survival of elk calves in the Roaring Fork Valley has dropped about 33 percent in the last decade. White River National Forest officials said they need to act to try to reserve that trend. They are seeking public comment on their plan.