Event planner ignores North Star rules | AspenTimes.com

Event planner ignores North Star rules

Jason Auslander
The Aspen Times
Boaters walk along Highway 82 last summer after floating the North Star Preserve. Pitkin County officials want to stop this situation and may hire a forest protection officer to enforce parking rules at the preserve east of Aspen.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Tiimes |

The floating zoo on the North Star Nature Preserve this summer continued to defy the county’s efforts to manage it effectively Friday.

A local event-planning company organized a float trip for 67 members of a wedding party Friday — complete with passenger buses and a large truck for flotation devices — in defiance of instructions it received from a Pitkin County Open Space and Trails ranger.

“Absolutely they ignored my advice that it was a violation of the management plan to provide commercial service on the North Star,” Ranger John Armstrong said. “As we left it, she was well-informed.”

EKS Events in Aspen planned the float trip, Armstrong said. Representatives of the company called him about two weeks ago and said they wanted information about the proper permits to get to be able to send a wedding party of 15 to 20 people down North Star, he said.

Armstrong said he told them they weren’t allowed to do it if they were exiting the water on Open Space and Trails property because commercial activity isn’t allowed under the preserve management plan. The take-out at Stillwater Bridge is Open Space and Trails property, but the put-in at Wildwood is Forest Service property.

A message left at EKS on Friday seeking comment was not returned.

Late Friday morning, North Star neighbors called Open Space and Trails to report three busloads of people being dropped off at the put-in, Armstrong said. An Open Space ranger was able to talk to them about keeping noise to a minimum and not littering, he said.

Later, staggered groups of wedding rafters landed at the Stillwater take-out and walked along a busy Highway 82 to re-board the buses.

“These aren’t bad people.” Armstrong said. “They’re nice kids having fun. I’m not going to bug the wedding party, but EKS will hear from us.”

North Star is a 175-acre parcel that runs along the Roaring Fork River about 1.5 miles east of Aspen. Recent years have seen an explosion in the number of tubers, rafters, kayakers and paddleboarders floating down the calm, flat water in the preserve, and corresponding levels of noise, alcohol and possible impacts to wildlife.

The Pitkin Board of County Commissioners will hold a public hearing Aug. 12 for the final reading of a new management plan for North Star, which aims to correct some of the excesses seen in recent years.