Hunter Creek plan in the final stages |

Hunter Creek plan in the final stages

Jeremy Heiman

A plan for managing vehicle use and wildlife in the Hunter CreekValley will be completed this spring.A task force, made up of 12 people with different interests inthe Hunter Creek Valley, has defined four alternative scenariosfor the valley and its trails and roads. The group will presenta summation of its work to the Pitkin County commissioners nextweek.Brian Pettet, Pitkin County’s deputy director of public works,said the work of the task force, which he heads, should be wrappedup by May – in time to be implemented as part of the revised managementplan for the White River National Forest. “I think it’s realisticto get it done,” he said.Pettet said the management scenarios range from one that eliminatesall motorized use except by personnel authorized to maintain communicationequipment on Red Mountain and owners of property within the NationalForest, to others that would allow vehicular access to huntersin hunting season. The alternatives contain a mixture of differentapproaches to access, trail and road maintenance, weed control,drainage, camping, hunting, public education and signs.Colorado Division of Wildlife representative Randy Cote has recommendedthat the final management plan be one that permits hunters todrive into the valley. Pettet said Cote feels that is importantin order to keep the elk population at a level that won’t overtaxthe forage available to the sizable herd.The task force has quickly accomplished five major goals:Prioritized issues in order of importance.Identified and obtained the information necessary for planning,including traffic counts, studies on use patterns, maps, and recordsof ownership.Defined the study area. It includes most of the backside of RedMountain and extends to Warren Lakes on Smuggler Mountain.Obtained support information, including last year’s court decisiondeclaring the Hunter Creek Road a Pitkin County road, and dataoutlining the concerns of the Colorado Division of Wildlife.Created the four hypothetical scenarios.Task force member Tom Lankering, who bikes and runs on trailsin the Hunter Creek Valley and considers himself an environmentalist,said the task force process has been very successful to this point.But one issue Lankering thinks should have surfaced as a priorityis preservation of the old agricultural buildings in the valley.Overall, he said, the task force members have worked well togetherin their quest for a management solution. “Everybody pretty much wanted to preserve and protect the areaand the wildlife up there,” he said. “There’s nobody saying `developit.'” He said the meetings were productive and everybody was respectfulof everybody else.Pettet agrees. “It’s been a positive experience for everyone,”he said.The task force will present its scenarios to the Board of CountyCommissioners on Feb. 23.The next step will be to develop specific strategies to implementeach of the scenarios. The task force will be working with theAspen Institute, which volunteered its help to generate additionalideas. Pettet said the institute’s help will be much appreciated.”And it’s also a reality check with people in the community,”Pettet added. He said the institute would help the group stepback and take a look to make sure nothing was missed in the group’sdiscussions.

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