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News briefs

Maroon Bells bus fare increases

The fare for the bus ride to Maroon Lake will increase $2 this summer, the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority board of directors decided Thursday.

The fee will increase from $6 to $8 for adults. The fare for youth 6 to 16 years old and seniors 65 and older will increase from $4 to $6.

The increase is needed to offset some of the subsidy for the operation.

The fare hasn’t been increased since 2004 on the popular bus service, according to RFTA’s records. The board said it wants an annual review.

Maroon Bells visitors will get hit with a double increase. Aspen Skiing Co. will charge a $5 fee to park in the garage at Aspen Highlands this summer. The Maroon Bells buses depart from Highlands. Parking used to be free, but Skico officials said the company must cover its expenses.

Some RFTA officials believe the parking fee coupled with the bus fare increase could result in a decrease in riders. RFTA staff said each 10 percent increase in price for mass transit tends to result in a 4 percent loss of ridership.

Pitkin County Commissioner and RFTA board alternate George Newman said that price-elasticity model is likely better suited for commuter and urban service.

“That model might not be as accurate when there’s a destination,” he said. A $2 fee increase won’t deter visitors from an important stop on their vacation, he said.

Snowmass Village Mayor and RFTA board member Markey Butler agreed.

“People who come here are going to pay whatever it takes to get up there. I’m not opposed to a $2 increase but I would be opposed to anything higher than that,” she said.

The hike was approved unanimously. RFTA will increase the part of the pie that the U.S. Forest Service receives from bus ticket sales from 50 cents to 65 cents.

Gov. expected to sign Public Lands Bill

A bill to create a Colorado Public Lands Day was approved by both chambers of the Legislature in the waning days of the session and is now awaiting the signature of Colo. Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The governor’s signature will come Tuesday in Vail, according to Conservation Colorado, a group that supported the bill. The conservation group said its source for the signing ceremony was the bill’s sponsors.

State Sen. Kerry Donovan, a Vail Democrat who represents a district that includes Aspen, Snowmass Village, Basalt and El Jebel, was the primary sponsor of the bill. It turned into a partisan debate and resulted in the House and Senate passing bills with different language. They reconciled the bill before the session ended.

The bill designates the third Saturday in May as Colorado Public Lands Day, which simply celebrates public lands. It will go into effect in 2017.

Hunter Creek fire planned

The White River National Forest and partners hope to undertake the Hunter Creek prescribed fire this weekend if the weather pattern holds.

The fire will target 1,100 acres of decadent Gambel Oak and mountain shrubs on the hillside north of the Hunter Creek Valley floor. The target area includes terrain around the Hummingbird Trail, which was added to the network last year.

Crews plan to ignite 60 to 100 acres by hand, and to follow up with aerial ignition by helicopter if conditions permit. The burn may take place over several days. Those in the area should expect to see large volumes of smoke and possibly flames. Please do not call 911 or emergency services.

The Forest Service has obtained smoke permits from the Colorado State Air Pollution Control Division, which identifies atmospheric conditions under which burns may be implemented for these projects. While smoke may be visible at times, most of the smoke will lift and dissipate during the warmest part of the day. Some smoke may linger over the area and in drainages as temperatures drop during the evening. Prescribed fire smoke may affect your health. For more information, see http://www.colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/wood-smoke-and-health.

Please refrain from recreating in the Hunter Creek area until the project is complete and officials have declared the area safe. Updates will be posted on the White River National Forest Twitter account, @WhiteRiverNews. Pitkin, Garfield and Eagle counties also will disseminate information through their alert systems.

For information on the benefits of prescribed fire, visit http://www.aspennature.org, or for general information, contact the Sopris Ranger District at 970-963-2266 or the Aspen Fire Department at 970-925-5532.

The prescribed burn is being undertaken to rejuvenate forage for wildlife and to reduce fuels in this buffer zone between the Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness and the city of Aspen.


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