New relief on Independence Pass
November 1, 2007
ASPEN ” Pitkin and Lake counties plan to mark their shared Continental Divide boundary line with a new toilet.
At an Oct. 22 joint meeting, Pitkin and Lake County commissioners agreed a permanent vault toilet instead of the current portable toilets would better serve the glut of travelers crossing Independence Pass, east of Aspen.
The project is in the early planning stages, and Pitkin County commissioners Dorothea Farris and Patti Clapper said they plan to talk further with Lake County and U.S. Forest Service officials, and the Independence Pass Foundation, a group performing restorative work on the pass.
“The summer traffic was somewhat impaired by not having sufficient bathrooms at the top,” Farris said. “Those little green huts aren’t exactly great. And a lot of people stop there.”
“People need to go to the bathroom. That’s not going to end,” Lake County Commissioner Ken Olsen said. And with the volume of traffic along the scenic stretch, he believes it’s better to provide a quality facility.
“It prevents people from stopping along the roadway,” Olsen said.
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The idea for a permanent toilet has been floated in years past, and Olsen believes it is time for a joint venture to improve the heavily used stretch.
“Accommodating folks and improving the comfort factor is always good for visitors,” even if just for the five months the pass is open, Olsen said.
Olsen recommends a vault toilet something like the CXT brand, a modular unit of concrete walls that’s easy to maintain, he said.
“They’re made to last,” Olsen said.
Both Clapper and Farris promised the toilets would be nothing like the much-maligned bathrooms installed and later replaced near the Maroon Bells.
“It’d be more like the Forest Service does at campgrounds,” Clapper said.
Pitkin and Lake County officials regularly discuss common water issues, and there has been some talk of opening Independence Pass year-round.
But neither Olsen nor the Pitkin County commissioners said any change in pass operations was likely.
“We weren’t even inclined to look at that,” Farris said.