Mountain bikers won’t lose Lollipop Trail on Aspen’s Smuggler
ASPEN ” When one doors closes on Aspen’s Smuggler Mountain next year another will open for mountain bikers.
The U.S. Forest Service intends to close a route known as the Lollipop Trail, which was created about four years ago without the agency’s blessing. The unsanctioned single-track trail provides a short ride that connects an area known as the upper viewing platform on Smuggler Mountain to the Iowa Shaft area. It’s a link to other trails in the Smuggler Mountain-Hunter Creek Valley network.
A final draft travel management plan released this month by the Forest Service proposes the closure of the Lollipop Trail and rehabilitation of the national forest land it crosses on Smuggler Mountain. The reason for the closure is uncertain.
“Everyone I know loves that trail,” said Chris Lane, a Basalt mountain biker and advocate for trails. “It’d be a shame to lose it.”
A similar route will be maintained because of efforts of the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails program. The Lollipop Trail cuts through Pitkin County open space as well as national forest. Officials with both agencies estimated that about 70 percent of the trail is on county land and 30 percent on national forest.
“We have to respect the Forest Service’s decision not to make it a sanctioned trail,” said Gary Tennenbaum, a land steward with Pitkin County Open Space and Trails. However, the agency can reroute the trail so it avoids land managed by the Forest Service. Tennenbaum said the management plan for the Smuggler property contemplates such a move. The project might be undertaken as soon as next summer by Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers, a nonprofit organization that harnesses volunteer labor for trails and other outdoor projects.
The rerouted Lollipop Trail would use some of the existing route, avoid national forest and connect riders to the Iowa Shaft area, Tennenbaum said. The beauty of the rerouting is Pitkin County intends to create additional links among existing trails or create new routes on the Smuggler Mountain property. The new and improved Lollipop Trail will not only provide the connection it created in the past to get people to the Hunter Creek Valley floor, it will eventually tie into a bigger network of trails on the shoulder of Smuggler, Tennenbaum said.
The city and county own 250 acres of land on Smuggler Mountain. The bulk of it, 180 acres, was added in 2005. The open space department has been working on a permanent management plan, which includes the vision for the trail network.
Tennenbaum said the management plan for Smuggler has been presented to the Roaring Fork Mountain Biking Association, an advocacy group for riders.
“They’re pretty excited about next year’s volunteer project,” he said.
The association is preparing comments on the Forest Service travel management plan and is monitoring the county’s Smuggler management plan, but declined comment for now.
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Local fire officials in Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties are heightening their fire concerns, and starting this week Stage 1 fire restrictions will be enacted. Stage 1 means no campfires in undeveloped sites, no fireworks and no smoking outside unless it’s in an area cleared of all combustible materials.