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North Star gets enforcement

Jeremy Heiman

Pitkin County officials are discussing measures that will put teeth into a management plan adopted last month for the county’s North Star Nature Preserve.

Under an extensive management plan for the preserve, adopted in July, activities such as paragliding are controlled through permits. But no provisions were created with the plan to enforce most of the regulations embodied in it.

Pitkin County’s wildlife biologist, Jonathan Lowsky, and assistant county attorney Debbie Quinn presented the county commissioners with some proposals for enforcement Tuesday. Though it might not be necessary immediately, hiring a ranger to oversee activities on the 175-acre preserve and other properties held by the county’s Open Space and Trails program was the suggestion drawing the most interest.

“I really don’t see how we can actually apply the North Star management plan, as it exists,” Lowsky said, “without some sort of seasonal presence.”

Quinn noted that she and Open Space director Dale Will have discussed hiring an Open Space ranger for some time, but with no conclusion. Provisions in the county criminal code would allow a county employee to write tickets requiring an appearance in county court, she said. A ranger, however, would not be cheap.

“I’m supportive of a ranger,” said commission chairwoman Shellie Roy Harper. “But I have a few budget concerns.” She said county residents complain that county government is growing, and adding another employee would continue that trend.

Lowsky suggested deriving part of the ranger’s pay from user fees on the preserve and possibly from fines resulting from violations. But Quinn noted that Open Space funds would likely be available for a ranger’s salary.

Commissioner Leslie Lamont voiced her support for a ranger, noting that, for example, one dog at large can do a lot of damage.

“We need to not take violations lightly,” Lamont said.

Harper observed that North Star and the county in general have a big problem with weeds, and said she thinks pulling weeds could be an appropriate community service chore for North Star violations.

Quinn backed up the suggestion, noting that fines can be suspended and community service can be made a mandatory part of a sentence.

County staffers will ready the enforcement provisions for a first vote by the commissioners in a few weeks.

The management plan, adopted only after a long series of contentious meetings, bans several historical uses, including picnicking and most fishing, and sets sharp limits on the times of day and months of the year that people are allowed to use the property for anything.

Some commercial and recreational uses will still be allowed, including kayaking and paragliding. Fishing is still allowed as long as the fishermen are floating through on a raft or canoe and do not step on the river bottom. Cross-country ski trails will still be cut and maintained through the winter.


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