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Comments sought on Roaring Fork Gorge

Bob Ward
Special to The Aspen Times

The Roaring Fork River is a familiar term, as is the Roaring Fork Valley. But have you ever heard of the Roaring Fork Gorge?

As defined by the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails program, the so-called gorge runs from Stein Park off Cemetery Lane to Wilton Jaffee Park just above Woody Creek. The four-mile corridor between is mostly owned or administered by the county, so Open Space and Trails officials are launching a major effort to decide how to manage their array of properties in and around the gorge. During June, they have scheduled a number of meetings in order to hear from the public.

The first public meeting is scheduled for 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday in the Rio Grande Room above Taster’s restaurant in Aspen. The meeting is specifically targeted at those who walk, run, hike or cross-country ski in the corridor. Additional meetings have been scheduled for commuters (June 12), road bikers (June 13), mountain bikers and cross-bikers (June 20), equestrians (June 24), anglers (June 25) and boaters (June 27). All of these exchanges are set for the same hours in the same place.

On Tuesday, recreation planner Lindsay Utter described the upshot of the effort to the Pitkin County commissioners this way:

“From 4 to 6, anyone can come by and provide comments about how they use (the gorge area) and how they might use it in the future,” she said.

Added Open Space and Trails Director Dale Will, “It’s a long stretch of fairly wild canyon, and a lot of it is in the open space program. So if you like the canyon or know about it, we encourage you to get involved.”

A meeting with nearby property owners is also scheduled for 4 to 6 p.m. on June 19 in the Colorado Mountain College Art Room.

Using feedback and suggestions from all these stakeholders, Utter and her colleagues will develop an overall management plan for the area, which includes the Red Butte Ranch Open Space, Airport Ranch, the Rio Grande Trail corridor, the Mills Open Space, Stein Park, Jaffee Park and the proposed Gold Butte rock-climbing area. When all is said and done, the open space program will emerge with a coordinated plan for what happens on the various parcels and how each one fits into the overall public network of trails and properties.

Officials expect to spend roughly $30,000 on the public-outreach effort, most of which is going to radio and print advertisements promoting the project. Through this publicity blitz, the program hopes to avoid last-minute opposition by ensuring that the public knows the planning is under way.

“We want to be as proactive in our outreach as possible,” said Howie Mallory, of the Open Space and Trails board of trustees.

For more information on the Roaring Fork Gorge management plan and other open space projects, go to http://www.pitkinost projects.com.


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