Filoha Meadows plan on tap May 15 |

Filoha Meadows plan on tap May 15

John Colson
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE ” A draft management plan for taking care of the controversial Filoha Meadows open space in the Crystal River Valley will begin its journey to ultimate approval on May 15 in Aspen.

That will be the first chance for members of the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails board to look over a collection of public comments about the plan (which were submitted before the comment period closed April 21) and begin the process of working the draft plan into its final form.

Dale Will, director of the Open Space and Trails department, said he was unsure how many comments had been received by e-mail, regular mail and other means, “but we’ve gotten many, I’ll say that.”

The 48-page draft management plan, including historic photos and appendices, can be found on the Pitkin County website. It is one of about a half dozen open space management plans that have been put into effect, Will told the county commissioners at a recent meeting.

The Filoha plan has drawn considerable controversy, largely because of the staunch resistance from neighbors to the county’s initial idea of running a bicycle trail through the approximately 185 acres of meadow along the Crystal River.

That idea has been abandoned in favor of pedestrian access only, but the controversy continues.

Neighbors now are resisting the county’s proposal to permit people to walk on their own along a dedicated trail, which once was a wagon road and later a railroad bed, Will said. He said the neighbors want the county only to allow pedestrians into the area if they are accompanied by a guide or naturalist, out of concern that too many people might threaten the health of bighorn sheep and other wildlife species that use the area.

Recognizing wildlife sensitivity issue, Will said, the management plan prohibits visitors from leaving the trail except in the company of a guide.

As the plan now stands, public access to Filoha Meadows would be allowed from July 1 through Sept. 30, Will said, adding that “we are not going to allow dogs, at all.”

The area would be “completely closed” at all other times, so the sheep and elk that use the meadows for winter habitat would not be disturbed.

The management plan is full of details about the land and its history (including hints that the native plant life has been disrupted seriously by nearly a century of ranching) and is full of suggestions about how to restore the vegetation to its historic status.

According to the history included in the plan, the original county wagon road was in place by 1885, replaced by a rail line in 1893, and was used by successive cattle ranching operations from the 1940s until 2002.

The meadow ” which the county has been acquiring in pieces since 1991 ” is about one mile south of the Redstone town boundary and three miles from the nearest parking area provided by Open Space and Trails at Redstone Park.

The name, Filoha, means “hot water” in the Ethiopian language, and was applied to the area by one-time owners Dr. Bernarr Johnson and his wife, Dorothea. Dr. Johnson had once practiced medicine in Ethiopia, according to the county’s brief history of the property.

The May 15 meeting will begin at 11 a.m. in the Plaza 1 Conference Room, 530 E. Main St.; the public is welcome.

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