It’s public open space, but can you find it? |

It’s public open space, but can you find it?

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

ASPEN – It’s not particularly difficult to find someone who can point out an access point to the Rio Grande Trail in Woody Creek. The St. Judes fishing easement on the Roaring Fork River near Basalt is a little more difficult for the average person to pinpoint, and only someone truly in the know could direct a would-be hiker to the trail loop on the Stirling Cooper Open Space or up Wheatley Gulch.

All are assets of the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails program, which will begin mapping its trails, open space holdings and recreational easements later this year so that the public can find them.

Staffers have already listed and mapped the county’s recreational holdings internally, an extensive effort that led to the Recreation Inventory and Analysis, which the open space program will use to identify gaps in the system. They include places where fishing access lacks a place to park or missing segments in a potential trail, for example.

The need to make the information available where the public can access it is the next step, whether it’s a printed map, an online resource or data a user could download to their cellphone.

“We don’t have a really good system now,” said Dale Will, open space and trails director, during a meeting of the program’s Board of Trustees last week. “I see this as something that’s going to be important for us to get our act together.”

Board member Tim McFlynn, noting the main purpose of defining the inventory was to identify the gaps, pondered the program’s role as mapmaker.

“I don’t yet see Open Space being the primary distributor of maps as a major service, but maybe I’m wrong,” he said.

“We want to have mapping of the whereabouts of these assets for our own internal purposes but also so the public knows what it has,” Will responded.

The effort will mean working with other entities – municipalities and the U.S. Forest Service, for example – as trails often overlap the boundaries of different jurisdictions. And the maps will be geared to different users, according to Will.

“We do recognize we’ve got multiple user groups out there. We need to make maps that work for fishermen, that work for mountain bikers and so on,” he said.

The Recreation and Inventory Analysis turned up an unexpected number of fishing easements – access that not only surprised open space officials but that is likely to open the eyes of some private property owners who aren’t aware the public has access on their land.

Verifying easements and informing property owners must happen before fishing and trail easements are posted as public, the board agreed. That process will begin in the spring, with work on mapping slated to start in the fall. The first maps might not be available until 2013.

Placing signs on public holdings is also part of the plan, though many open space parcels already have signs featuring the Open Space and Trails insignia and the name of the particular property.

Board member Hawk Greenway suggested a symbol, if not a full-fledged sign, be placed to designate easements maintained by the open space program, much like underground utility lines are marked in some spots.

“I think we need to identify them on the ground with a symbol,” Greenway said. “I think we need to invent a symbol that goes out there on these easements.”

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