Management plan for backcountry area taking shape
Nothing is written in stone, yet, but a recreation management plan for the backside of Aspen Mountain is now compiled in a draft form.
The citizens’ group assembled to create the plan, however, is still grappling with some divisive issues, like whether camping should be restricted to designated areas and whether group events such as the Colorado 500 motorcycle rides should be restricted to a certain number of participants.
The U.S. Forest Service hopes to create a draft environmental impact statement in July for its new White River National Forest Management Plan, which will incorporate the group’s work.
On the issue of camping, Aspen District Ranger Rob Iwamoto said the idea of restricting camping to designated areas on Castle Creek is to protect the creek and its banks, while on Richmond Ridge, there has for years been a problem with people camping on private lands. It was suggested that rather than eliminating dispersed camping on Richmond Ridge, the Forest Service should place signs along the county road indicating the boundaries of public lands.
The draft plan was reviewed at a meeting Monday. Created over the course of 15 monthly meetings, it suggests capping the number of participants in group events to limit the environmental and social impacts. Prompting the call for such restrictions is a proposed motorcycle ride, sponsored by the Colorado 500 organization, involving an estimated 350 motorcyclists riding over Pearl Pass.
John Narby, a trail motorcyclist, described the ride as a desirable charity event that raises money for scholarships and nonprofits. “There are communities that clamor for the Colorado 500,” Narby said. “They donate tons of money.”
Sloan Shoemaker, a staffer for the Aspen Wilderness Workshop, countered, “I have to take exception to the commercial for the Colorado 500.” He said past Colorado 500 events have generated plenty of reports of motorcyclists intentionally riding off the four-wheel-drive roads along the route, damaging fragile alpine tundra.
Though it was agreed the issue of who is to enforce regulations is important, it also remained unresolved. Iwamoto pointed out that the Forest Service has only one enforcement officer, shared between the Sopris Ranger District, based in Carbondale, and the Aspen Ranger District. He said he had checked with sources in Washington, D.C. and learned that his staff could not legally be deputized by Pitkin County. The county doesn’t have money or staff to patrol the area.
The final meeting for the planning group is scheduled for Monday, May 3, at 5:30 p.m., at the Senior Center, next to Aspen Valley Hospital.
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Ghez, 55, has long been a familiar name around the Aspen Center for Physics, a nonprofit launched in 1962 that seeks to bring the best minds in the world together for collaboration and innovation.