Operation to open Ute Trial on Aspen Mountain begins
The helicopter buzzing around Aspen Mountain on Tuesday morning was related to Pitkin County’s efforts to remove a precariously perched rock atop Ute Mountain.
The helicopter ferried equipment, including fencing, rock-splitting equipment, compressors and generators, to Ute Rock, which split apart in a lightning strike during a thunderstorm this fall, county engineer G.R. Fielding said in an email.
The county decided to get rid of the remaining piece of Ute Rock rather than run the risk of it tumbling down the steep slope, which also features the popular Ute Trail, and hitting people, homes or infrastructure. The project is costing the county, which owns the mining claim where the rock is located, $124,000.
The city, which administers the Ute Trailhead, closed the trail for safety reasons soon after the rock split in September and sent large boulders tumbling down to the street below. It remains closed.
The helicopter began transporting the equipment about 8:30 a.m. from a spot east of Aspen near the Northstar Nature Preserve, Fielding said. Traffic on Highway 82 near that spot faced minor delays when the helicopter picked up the equipment, he said.
Crews are scheduled to begin installing rockfall fences today below Ute Rock. After that, crews above will break Ute Rock into “something manageable” and move it farther up the slope to secure areas, including abandoned mine shafts, Fielding has said.
The project is expected to take about 10 days, he said.
Ute Rock is located at the top of Ute Trail on Ute Mountain, which is the easternmost peak on Aspen Mountain.
For the next few weeks, the Bureau of Land Management is asking for public comment regarding its decision to evaluate its oil and gas program and other management decisions across the state to promote the conservation of big game habitat.
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