Maroon Lake plan reduced by USFS |

Maroon Lake plan reduced by USFS

Jeremy Heiman

The U.S. Forest Service has scaled back its plans for a visitors’ center at Maroon Lake.

A proposal now being considered calls for a smaller trailhead shelter with limited informational displays and possibly a sales area for maps and other items. The new concept replaces a proposal for a proposed $1.3 million, 4,500-square-foot, earth-sheltered visitors’ center that drew strong criticism from area residents.

The size has been pared down to 500 square feet of enclosed space and an attached 500-square-foot covered shelter, said Forest Service winter sports administrator Jim Stark, who is heading up the analysis of the visitors’ center project. The concept was selected from four ideas through a cost analysis by a regional Forest Service team from Denver. A design has not yet been drawn up, Stark said, but the smaller structure would be built near the existing restroom building.

The changes were made “because of the number of public comments, and some pretty strong comments,” Stark said.

Another round of public comments is being sought to help flesh out the new concept. “I think it’s a great starting point that people can throw substantial comments at,” Stark said.

The decision to reduce the size of the visitors’ center brings the Maroon Lake redevelopment project closer to finality, Stark said, because local Forest Service officials won’t have to scrounge up funding for the interpretive displays.

Citizen involvement played a large part in bringing about the demise of the plan for another huge earth-sheltered structure at Maroon Lake, Stark said. In fact, no comments in favor of the original plan were received.

Stark said Aspen District Ranger Jim Upchurch wants to recruit six or eight local people who will serve as a design review group to work with the Denver design team as the plans take shape.

The smaller design will clearly cost much less, Stark said, and the Denver team has suggested using the remaining money to complete other unfunded projects in the Maroon Lake area. Some projects include finishing the rehabilitation of the former Maroon Lake campground and upgrading the Silver Bar, Silver Bell and Silver Queen campgrounds, all in the Maroon Lake area. Another project would be to change the look of the facade of the recently completed restroom building, which has also been criticized by local residents.

Money would also be available to create interpretive displays for both the smaller visitors’ center and a proposed interpretive center at Aspen Highlands, which is the proposed staging area for Maroon Lake bus service. An alternative site for an interpretive center might be a new district ranger station and visitors’ complex, if one is eventually built.

The visitors’ center, whatever its final appearance, will be the last piece of a $6 million redevelopment project that started in 1995. The Forest Service has constructed a new entrance station and relocated the main parking lot downvalley from Maroon Lake. A $1.4 million restroom and bus stop was completed this year. That facility was built mostly underground and has been referred to as a “bunker.”

Under the previous proposal, the visitors’ center was also intended to be an underground facility.

Forest Service officials have stressed that they believe it is important to share information on topics like wildlife, geology and environmental care with visitors to Maroon Lake. About 200,000 people visit the area each year.

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