North Star opinions flowing into Pitkin County

There appears to be no shortage of opinions about how to better manage the North Star Nature Preserve.

Pitkin County’s Open Space and Trails Program only recently opened the public comment period in preparation for an update to the management plan for the popular summer recreation area, and has already received at least 150 responses to an online survey, said Lindsey Utter, the program’s planning and outreach manager.

“That’s a lot (of responses) considering it’s only been open for a week,” Utter said Friday. “People love North Star.”

Management plans for the various properties owned by the Open Space Program generally are updated every five years, Utter said. Sky Mountain Park was next up for an update, though that trail network appears to be running smoothly, while North Star was the source of numerous comments, she said.

So, Open Space officials decided to start on North Star — the site of a popular summer float trip down the only placid portion of the Roaring Fork River — a year early in hopes of implementing any changes by the time the area gets busy again next summer, Utter said.

“The goal is to have it adopted by May,” she said.

The North Star online survey at, which is available until early January, is the first step in the process. Open Space officials also will host three outreach events at Local Coffee House, 614 E. Cooper Ave., starting Tuesday as well as Nov. 12 and 19 from 8:30 to 11 a.m. to inform the public about North Star planning efforts, Utter said.

In addition, officials will host an open house about North Star on Dec. 12 at Local Coffee House.

“With everything we do, public comment matters,” she said. “We value the input.”

Use of North Star, located just east of Aspen, in the summer has boomed in the past five years, partially because of the increase in popularity of stand-up paddleboards. On weekends, parking at the Wildwood put-in and the Stillwater Bridge take-out can be challenging and, in the case of the take-out, dangerous.

Public officials, including Pitkin County Commissioner Patti Clapper, Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo and the lead ranger for the Open Space Program, told The Aspen Times in July that the situation at the take-out endangers public safety. There is little parking alongside Highway 82 in that section, and cars heading in and out of Aspen have little notice of the pedestrian activity they’re about to encounter because of blind curves that bracket the bridge area.

After the initial public comment periods ends in early January, Open Space officials will work on a draft management plan, which will then be available for public comment before the plan is officially adopted by Pitkin County commissioners.