Forest Service will reopen visitors’ center in Aspen
The U.S. Forest Service will soon be back in business at the Entrance to Aspen with a little help from its friends.
The Aspen-Sopris Ranger District will jointly open a visitors’ center with Pitkin County Open Space and Trails at the old Forest Service office building at the S-curves at the Entrance to Aspen. The address of the building is 806 W. Hallam St.
Last summer, the Forest Service shifted its visitors’ center office to Aspen Highlands, where the buses to the Maroon Bells load. The shift back to Aspen was made possible this summer because Pitkin County Open Space and Trails needed to find new quarters while the Plaza One building is reconstructed.
The open space department aims to relocate by July 5 and will be open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The department “may still be in a state of flux” that first week, according to open space Assistant Director Gary Tennenbaum. The goal is to open the visitors’ center July 5, as well. A grand opening will be held July 14 from 4 to 6 p.m.
The visitors’ center will only be open on weekdays, said Aspen-Sopris District Ranger Karen Schroyer. Visitors to the center will encounter personnel from both the Forest Service and Pitkin County Open Space and Trails. They will be able to provide information about access and activities on public lands.
The ranger district has funding to help staff the center through Sept. 30. Pitkin County is looking at options to staff the center further.
“The goal is to staff it year-round,” Schroyer said.
At this point, the Forest Service’s ability to help out is unknown. The agency sold a portion of its land in the 800 block of West Hallam Street with the intent of rebuilding the office building and either rebuilding or remodeling a bunkhouse for seasonal employees. That project is in the “hold mold,” said White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams.
“While we have the money to rebuild the building, we don’t have the money to staff it,” Fitzwilliams said.
The Forest Service is exploring staffing the visitors’ center with volunteers during summers after this year.
Pitkin County Open Space and Trails will be located at the Forest Service building for the duration of the construction project at Plaza One — currently estimated at between 18 and 24 months. It is renovating the interior and exterior of the Forest Service in lieu of rent, Schroyer said.
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