Numerous people weigh in on Aspen’s North Star Nature Preserve management plan
When the Pitkin County commissioners review the proposed final management plan for North Star Nature Preserve on July 22, an ongoing debate about the exploding recreational use of the area is likely to spill into the boardroom.
Numerous people have already weighed in about whether such uses as paddleboarding and tubing should be restricted. A lazy stretch of the Roaring Fork River meanders through the 175-acre nature preserve 11/2 miles east of Aspen.
Floating has soared in popularity in recent years and was “the worst I’ve ever seen it” on the Fourth of July, according to one neighbor.
Rangers from the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails program issued tickets for illegal parking and fishing in closed areas. They also pulled a significant amount of garbage from the river and surrounding preserve — from beer cans to inner tubes.
However, the debate over the fate of North Star is nothing new. The latest round started last summer when the open space program opened an online survey about conditions at North Star that allowed responders to offer comments. There were 47 comments made between July 16, 2014, and Feb. 11. More regulation of recreational uses was favored by 23 responders, while 12 said there was enough regulation. Another 12 responders made neutral comments or indicated awe with the preserve without weighing in on whether more regulation is needed.
In addition, 35 people submitted comments separate from the survey and called for more regulation, while five said to leave conditions as they exist. Most of those comments were received between May 4 and June 5, when the open space program invited opinions on its proposed management plan.
Here is a smattering of comments submitted as part of the open space program’s survey:
• “The paddleboarding is out of control.”
• “Don’t want to ‘love it to death’ but don’t want too many restrictions either.”
• “Too many floaters not respecting the nature of the preserve. It has turned into more of a floating party. However, at least most everyone stays on the water and not venture onto the closed parts of the preserve.”
• “Only feels overcrowded at put-in and take-out, but not on the river. Not overcrowded for other activities — trail, cross-country skiing.”
• “As a bird watcher, I worry about paddleboarders floating the river affecting the wildlife’s habitat. I don’t see crowds since I go there in early-morning hours. I do see the trash they leave on the banks. For years, birders have not gotten closer to heron nests so as not to disturb the birds. Now they have people right in their feeding areas.”
• “The area is already restricted enough and should be left open to the public.”
• “Not happy that the concierges at the hotels are telling guests to visit North Star and float. We don’t need more traffic than the locals and second-home owners.”
• “The heavy use destroys some of the natural beauty of the space. I feel that its use should be more controlled and regulated.”
• “Grills on beach would be great.”
• “I love the authentic feel of the preserve as a wildlife refuge, but the increase in number of people using the park for water recreation tells us we must join these too purposes together, or at least find a new outlet for water recreation in the city. For me, the beach offers a great and rare opportunity of sitting by a lazy Colorado river on sand. Most other rivers have rock. It is also an amazing feeling being tucked into the tall grass.”
• “On busy weekends, issue passes online and limit the number.”
• “It has become an amusement-ride place. Watching inner tubes full of beer-drinking people treat the preserve like a Disney ride has us not going there anymore.”
• “More parking at Wildwood as well as the take-out would be great.”
• “Drinking should not be allowed when floating down North Star. Getting drunk kind of can ruin the mood. Maybe a glass of wine is OK, but getting hammered and then floating the river kind of kills the preserves purpose.”
A copy of the proposed management plan can be found at http://www.pitkin ostprojects.com.
Modifications were made after the public-comment period, and the open space and trails board approved the plan Tuesday. The commissioners will take a look July 22 at a time that hasn’t been announced yet.
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A meeting with state public health officials Monday afternoon revealed new metrics for smaller population counties and good news for Pitkin County.