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Citizens can give say on Bells road

Janet Urquhart

Before Pitkin County spends $1.7 million rehabilitating Maroon Creek Road next year, it wants the input of local citizens.

Residents are invited to serve on a task force that will advise the board of county commissioners on what kind of improvements are needed to the heavily used road leading up to Maroon Lake and the Maroon Bells.

“The number of buses and the amount of traffic that goes up there – there are conflicts with the recreationists,” said Brian Pettet, deputy director of public works for the county.

The county could simply repave the road from Aspen Highlands to the Maroon Lake parking area, or it could consider other improvements, Pettet said. Citizens who use the road are most likely to know what type of improvements are needed, he said.

The road is closed to all but buses during the peak hours of the day in the summer, but there are still conflicts between recreational users and buses. When the road is open to private vehicles, motorists share the road with bicyclists traveling downhill at high speeds and inline skaters with their wide, side-to-side strides.

Pettet said he was told a bicyclist last summer sped between a horse and the individual leading it, zipping beneath the quickly hoisted reins.

“There are some legal implications, too, with Rollerblading on a county road,” he said. “Whether it’s legal or not, we have that going on throughout the county.” Pettet said he will seek input from the sheriff’s office on that particular use.

The board of county commissioners signed an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service in 1996 that stipulates how much the county may do in the way of rehabilitating the road, noted Pettet. The road won’t be widened, according to that pact.

However, either party may back out of the agreement, Pettet said.

“If we need to amend that agreement between the Forest Service and the county, then I’d like to take that recommendation back to the board of county commissioners,” he said.

The citizens task force might consider a separate bike lane or widening the road to accommodate bikes along each side. The group could also say no improvements beyond a basic repaving are needed, Pettet said.

The county previously offered to repave the road and then turn it over to the Forest Service, but the agency, lacking funds to maintain it, was not interested.

“I’m sure that will come up again in this discussion. It’s one of those roads that accesses primarily Forest Service land,” Pettet said.

The task force will probably meet in late November. Anyone interested in serving should call the public works office at 920-5390. Pettet said he will also accept written comments from individuals who want to share their ideas but don’t want to serve on the task force.

The road work will be done next spring as soon as the snow melts, according to Pettet.


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