Independence Pass now almost free of old snow fencing | AspenTimes.com

Independence Pass now almost free of old snow fencing

Aspen Times staff report
Aspen, CO Colorado

Courtesy Mark Fuller

ASPEN – Just 20 tons or so to go.

A local group’s push to rid Independence Pass of snow fencing that has littered the high-alpine tundra for decades moved a big step closer to completion on Tuesday.

The Independence Pass Foundation brought in a helicopter from TransAero of Fort Collins to pluck bundles of the heavy, metal fencing from the upper reaches of the pass, southeast of Aspen, and deposit them in the parking lot at the pass summit. From there, Rocky Mountain Recycling is trucking the metal to Denver where it will be recycled, according to Mark Fuller, foundation executive director.

Fuller had hoped all 50 tons or so of the remaining fencing could be removed Tuesday, but the work wasn’t quite finished. With adverse weather in the rest of this week’s forecast, crews will either shoot for next week to finish the project or wait until next year, he said.

The dismantling and removal of the fencing began in the mid-1990s and has been done in phases. Over the past few years, foundation volunteers have disassembled and piled up the remaining fencing, readying the material for removal.

The fencing was installed as a water-conservation project in the 1960s. The goal was retarding and prolonging spring runoff by capturing and compacting snowdrifts along the Continental Divide. The project was abandoned before it was completed, and the fencing was left scattered across miles of the tundra.

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On Tuesday, the area to the north of the pass summit and the ridge to the southwest were both completely cleared, according to Fuller. In addition, about 14 loads, or 4.5 tons, were taken off Mountain Boy to the southeast, on the far side of the summit. There are another 40-plus loads awaiting removal from Mountain Boy, he said.

This year’s removal work will cost about $25,000, according to Fuller, to be offset by $5,000 to $6,000 the foundation hopes to recoup from the sale of the metal.

The foundation’s ongoing work, along with removal of the fencing, focuses on the revegetation of eroding slopes where Highway 82 was cut over the pass.

The group’s big fundraiser is the Ride for the Pass, a bicycle ride/race on the pass held each year before it opens to traffic in the spring. The event brings in about $25,000 annually, according to Fuller. The foundation also takes in other donations to fund its cause.