Forest Service gets explosive input for Maroon Lake plans |

Forest Service gets explosive input for Maroon Lake plans

Jeremy Heiman

While the public comments haven’t been analyzed or even counted yet, there is absolutely no support for the full-sized visitor center proposed earlier for Maroon Lake, a U.S. Forest Service official says.

During a comment period that ended Dec. 15, the Forest Service received fewer than 50 comments on a proposal to build a smaller interpretive center. Officials now intend to use an environmental assessment process to reach a decision on what will be built, based on the comments. They hope to complete that process before summer, said Jim Stark, a Forest Service recreation planner.

Public comments received last month ranged from a call to blow up the new restroom building to requests to build only a very basic visitor center, Stark said. Comments were generally helpful, he said.

“Some people put an awful lot of thought into it, actually,” he said.

The environmental assessment will present three or more alternative projects for the remaining development at Maroon Lake, including a no-action alternative. A final decision will be made either by District Ranger Jim Upchurch or by White River National Forest Supervisor Martha Ketelle.

The environmental assessment will be produced by an interdisciplinary team made up of a small group of Forest Service employees. At the same time, a six-person Forest Service design team will create plans and drawings of the conceptual alternatives created by the interdisciplinary team.

The third group, a citizen steering committee, will advise the interdisciplinary team. Interested citizens and representatives of local transit and the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies will be among the members.

Allocation of money for remaining projects in the Maroon Creek Valley will depend on the outcome of the environmental assessment. Some projects that could be funded, in addition to an interpretive center, would be revegetation and rehabilitation of the old campground and purchase of interpretive displays. Changing the facade of the restroom building is another possibility.

“I doubt too many people would be against working with the visuals of the existing toilet,” Stark said.

A $1.4 million restroom and bus stop was completed last year. That facility was built mostly underground and has been referred to as a “bunker” or “the Flintstone house” because of its facade of artificial boulders.

Stark said the process of planning the visitors center has been opened up to the public more than the planning of the restrooms, after the restroom building proved to be controversial. He said to some extent, the agency failed to follow the required public input process on the earlier building.

“Some things were changed that probably didn’t go through the right process,” Stark said.

In mid-November, the Forest Service floated the idea of a 500-square-foot visitors center with an equal-sized shelter. This replaced a plan for a 4,500-square-foot earth-sheltered visitors center that drew strong criticism from area residents.

The visitors center, whatever its final appearance, will be the last piece of a $6 million redevelopment project that started in 1995. In addition to the restrooms, the Forest Service has constructed a new entrance station and relocated the main parking lot downvalley from Maroon Lake.

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