Droste ridge proves popular | AspenTimes.com

Droste ridge proves popular

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

SNOWMASS VILLAGE – The open space on the former Droste property outside of Snowmass Village has seen roughly 6,500 visits since it opened to the public in late May.

Trail counters have been placed near the bottom of both routes up onto the scenic ridge that is the highlight of the property. By the middle of last week, the counter on the Snowmass Village end had tallied 9,580 passes by hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians, while the counter on the Radar Road end, behind the airport, has been triggered 3,331 times. The total is nearly 13,000, but since everyone who passed by a counter on the way up also passed by one on the way back down, total visits are about 6,500.

The tally represents repeated visits by some fans of the property. The ridge, separating the Brush Creek and Owl Creek valleys, offers expansive views of the upper Roaring Fork Valley.

In addition to the counters, a camera was placed on the property from July to mid-September, according to Gary Tennenbaum, land steward for Pitkin County Open Space and Trails. It snapped 1,156 photos, mostly of hikers and mountain bikers. Only 18 people on horseback were captured in photographs.

Tennenbaum said he anticipated the ridge would be popular with mountain bikers, but it has proven nearly equally enticing to hikers.

“It’s not quite 50/50 with mountain bike use, but it’s close,” he said.

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At present, access to the ridge is only available from Radar Road and the Viewline Trail on the Snowmass Village side, but evaluating opportunities for additional access will be part of a master plan process that Tennenbaum hopes to begin soon and complete before year’s end. User groups and the general public will be asked to participate.

Connections to the ridge from both the Owl Creek side on the Snowmass end and Cozy Point South, an open space parcel at the intersection of Highway 82 and Brush Creek Road, have been discussed as possibilities.

“That’s one of the things we need to look at, is feasibility,” Tennenbaum said. “The reality is, everyone would love to see a connection to Cozy Point. How you make that happen is going to be in the management plan.”

Open Space and Trails officials on Wednesday made public the biological and historical resource study done by a private consultant on not only the former Droste land but surrounding open space properties, totaling about 2,500 acres in all.

The study’s conclusions will guide the master plan, Tennenbaum said. Consultants mapped out critical wildlife areas and vegetation that is important to wildlife, as well as plants that should be protected in their own right (Martin’s milkvetch, rare in Colorado, has been found on the Droste property).

Tennenbaum has been lining up volunteer trail crews for work projects next year, but there is plenty to do just taking care of existing trails and revegetating routes that aren’t going to be part of the trail system in the greater mountain park.

“We already have trails up there that need to be rerouted,” he said. “Even if we don’t build any new trails, we have tons of trail work to do.”

janet@aspentimes.com