Closure gates proposed for Prince Creek, Dinkle Lake roads in Pitkin County
Pitkin County commissioners on Tuesday supported a plan to install winter closure gates on Prince Creek Road and Dinkle Lake Road to keep people from opening the roads on their own then getting stuck.
“This has been talked about for a while now,” said Brian Pettet, the county’s public works director. “It’s gotten progressively worse … over the last five years.”
Historically, the county’s road and bridge employees closed Prince Creek and Dinkle Lake roads in the winter by piling up a bank of snow to block access, Pettet said. But with more people using especially Prince Creek Road — the 992 cars logged in June on the road was a record — the snow bank strategy no longer works, he said.
“Last year, some West Sopris Creek residents were plowing parts of the road … to gain access to Prince Creek Road in order to commute from West Sopris Creek Road to Carbondale,” Pettet and Road and Bridge Manager Scott Mattice wrote in a memo to commissioners. “This activity allowed many other drivers to access both backcountry roads.
“In some cases, drivers became stuck and stranded on Prince Creek Road because it appeared the road was open for travel. This became a public safety issue.”
Beyond the public safety issue, reducing or removing the snow piles that block the roads in winter causes resource damage when drivers go around the pile and major road ruts when they use the closed road during mud and melt season, they said.
Officials plan to install two gates on Prince Creek Road. One would be put up on the Aspen side near where West Sopris Creek Road and Prince Creek Road intersect, Pettet said. The second gate would be installed just above Handy Drive on the Carbondale side. The area is near the base of Mount Sopris.
The Dinkle Lake Road gate would be placed near that road’s intersection with Prince Creek Road, he said.
All three gates would close Dec. 1. The Prince Creek Road gates would open April 15, while Dinkle Lake would open May 15. The total cost of installing all three gates is about $12,000.
The U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, the Roaring Fork Horse Council and area ranchers and landowners all support installing the gates, Mattice said. Still, officials plan to do outreach before installing the gates, probably by early December, Pettet said.
“I’m really supportive of this,” Commissioner George Newman said. “We’ve seen impacts on Dinkle Lake Road before. Young people have been doing donuts and destroying (parking) lots we spend a lot of time and energy on.”
Other commissioners wanted to make sure cross-country skiers, snowmobilers and other winter recreationalists will be able to access the roads after the gates are installed.
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Pitkin County and Basalt have been subsidizing the public drop-off recycling center in Basalt since 2015. Pitkin County informed Basalt it won’t contribute any longer. Basalt says it can’t provide the entire subsidy required by private company Waste Management. The future of the popular facility is in doubt.