In Brief: Traffic down in Aspen; trails around Snowmass Village open |

In Brief: Traffic down in Aspen; trails around Snowmass Village open

Monthly Traffic Count Comparison.
City of Aspen/Courtesy Image

Aspen traffic numbers show lower vehicle trips

The city of Aspen released traffic flow numbers from January through April, and only April is on par with other years. 

The annual monthly average of vehicles is measured by the number of vehicles crossing the Castle Creek Bridge. The number reflects the daily average through month.

Thus far, 2023 is trending lower than 2022 overall. January 2023 numbers surpassed 2021, but did not reach the totals of 2020 and 2022. 

February 2023 numbers were almost identical to 2021 levels, and down 2,000 vehicles from last year, while over 1,000 from 2020.

March vehicle trips were also 2,000 below March 2022, and 1,000 below March 2021. 2020 numbers reflect direct impact from the COVID-19 lockdown.

Not a single monthly vehicle total for the past seven years surpassed the 1993 Community Goal, which is the target goal for the community to never exceed. 

“Aspen is unique in that the community planned to set a limit on single occupied vehicles and successfully provided transit, trails, and other means to achieve this goal,” Deputy City Engineer Pete Rice said. “This has improved the environment and reduced congestion, so the community should be very proud to see these statistics.”

Historically, May is the city’s lightest traffic flow month. 

— Julie Bielenberg, Aspen Times staff

Snowmass Village trails open this week

Beginning on Wednesday, the North Rim, North Mesa Equestrian, Seven Star, and all Sky Mountain Park trails will be opened for the summer season, Snowmass Village announced.

“Trail conditions are unknown, so please use caution and watch out for hazards such as downed branches that may have accumulated through the winter,” they urged in a release.

Many seasonal trail closures remain in place in the Burnt Mountain Area. You can check all trail conditions and closures by following this link:

Conservation group brings ‘River of Sorrows’ to TACAW

Protect the Dolores Film Tour comes to Basalt on Wednesday, May 31, at the TACAW. The event is free and open to the public.

Colorado has 8.3 million acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) public lands. Of that, 8% of these lands are permanently protected through conservation designations, dramatically less than others in the state. In 2021, Wilderness Workshop, in strategic partnership with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, launched the Colorado Wildlands Project to help protect wild public lands managed by the BLM in the western portion of the state.

The Wildlands Project is a founding member of the Protect the Dolores Coalition, which is bringing “The River of Sorrows,” a new Rig to Flip film, to TACAW.

Art and bike sharing make a match in Carbondale

Carbondale Arts has partnered with WE-cycle, the Roaring Fork Valley’s bike share program that will be launched in Carbondale this summer.

WE-cycle Executive Director Mirte Mallory said, “Riding a bike evokes a sense of wonder
and independence while giving the rider access to new places and perspectives. Art inspires
similar emotions and reflections and for decades art and bikes have been part of the soul of
Carbondale. As WE-cycle prepares for its much anticipated Carbondale debut, WE-cycle is
enthused to align its bike share offering with the spirit of the community and to further connect
and contribute to the vibrant public arts culture of Carbondale of which Carbondale Arts is the

While the WE-cycle bikeshare stations and bikes will be the same throughout the Roaring Fork
Valley and one can check out a bike with the same pass at any of over 80 stations, the 17
Carbondale stations and six of the e-bikes “will have their own personality, one rooted in the
beauty of art and movement thanks to an inspiring collaboration with Carbondale Arts,” Mallory said.

Carbondale Arts became the connector through relationships with the town of Carbondale, RFTA, funders, and their network of local artists via the Carbondale Creative District Directory. A program of Carbondale Arts, Carbondale Creative District was the driving force behind the ARTway with RFTA, a one-mile stretch of the Rio Grande Trail that runs through downtown Carbondale and features various art installations, community gardens, and parks (with a new one, the Youth Art Park, emerging this year behind the rec center).

Carbondale Arts’ Community Engagement Director Michael Stout said, “This project aligns with
so many of the things we aim to do through the Creative District. By including artists in these
partnerships we help to support our creative community and continue to advance the role of art
in our shared civic space.”

Feds to pay $5 million for cleanup of mine blowout

The federal government will pay Colorado $5 million more for ongoing cleanup of the Gold King Mine blowout in 2015 that soiled the Animas and San Juan rivers, adding to other cleanup payments for the shaft-riddled Bonita Peak Mining District. 

The latest settlement, announced on Thursday by the Colorado Attorney General’s Office, says the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management are liable for damages because they manage property within the mining district, which was declared a Superfund cleanup priority in 2016. The EPA is also liable under the deal because it was the agency doing reclamation work on a water blockage at Gold King in August 2015 when acid-tainted mine water blew out of the shaft under intense pressure. 

The EPA built an interim water treatment plant to slow the river contamination after the blowout, and other reclamation work continues around the mine and dozens of others abandoned in what is now the Superfund district. 

“We have vigilantly pursued claims for natural resource damages and will work hard to invest the funds we have recovered to best serve the affected communities,” said Attorney General Phil Weiser, whose office negotiated the settlement on behalf of state agencies grouped as the Colorado Natural Resources Trustees. 

“Inactive and abandoned mines that operated before Colorado had mining laws continue to have unfortunate and ongoing impacts to Colorado’s waters and landscape,” said Dan Gibbs, a trustee and executive director of the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. Cleanup issues in the district “remain challenging and I appreciate the cooperation among the trustees and the federal government in settling our State’s natural resource damage claims.”

State aims to buy firefighting aircraft rather than rent

Colorado is doubling down on its push to rely less on rented aircraft to fight wildfires with the purchase of a second helicopter capable of quickly crisscrossing the state to detect and douse flames. 

Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill Friday allocating $26 million to buy another “Firehawk,” a converted version of the military’s ubiquitous Black Hawk helicopter. The Firehawk’s top speed is about 160 mph and it can quickly slurp up and drop 1,000 gallons of water.

When fires aren’t burning, the helicopter can be deployed on search and rescue missions.

Right now, Colorado has no operational, state-owned aircraft that can drop water and retardant on fires. Instead, it relies on contracts with private aerial firefighting companies to respond to blazes across the state. 

Some of those air resources are pooled regionally, meaning that the rented helicopters and airplanes serve multiple states at the same time.