Pedal power helps to restore the pass
The Independence Pass Foundation is counting on pedal power Saturday to raise a little bit of money and a lot of awareness about its efforts.
The nonprofit organization will host its annual Ride for the Pass Saturday, May 18. Cyclists ride from the winter closure gate to the Independence ghost town while the road remains closed to vehicles.
Although the event attracts hundreds of riders each year, it isn’t a huge moneymaker for the group. It will net about $5,000, according to Independence Pass Foundation director Mark Fuller.
The organization has spent about $150,000 annually over the past decade. Its mission is to improve safety, aesthetics and recreational opportunities along the 20-mile stretch of Independence Pass east of Aspen.
Fuller said he is grateful for any funds raised but noted that the event’s value surpasses money.
“It’s a time when the community can really help us,” said Fuller. “It’s important to us to make a connection to the community.”
The event and the awareness it builds assist fund-raising efforts with individuals, governments and foundations, and it spurs volunteer enlistment. People get interested in learning what the foundation is about once they participate in the ride, Fuller said.
At the top of the Pass Foundation’s to-do list is completion of stabilization at what’s known as the “top cut” – the section of road between the last switchback near the Linkins Lake trailhead and the summit of the pass.
Construction of Highway 82 left a scar in the mountain decades ago. The Independence Pass Foundation is trying to prevent the ground from fraying more by revegetating and stopping the practice of sending debris downslope.
Work on the top cut is about one-third to one-half done, Fuller said. The Pass Foundation is attempting to raise $1.5 million for the remaining work over the next five years.
Once that work is completed, it will set its sights on repairing the scars in the hillside by Tagert Lake and Difficult Campground.
The foundation receives significant funding from Pitkin County and the city of Aspen. The Colorado Department of Transportation and U.S. Forest Service frequently donate cash, in-kind service or both.
Individual donations and grants from foundations or organizations round out the Pass Foundation’s funding.
“We’re fairly non-controversial, so it’s one of those things a wide variety of people can give to and feel good about it,” Fuller said.
And supporters can also feel good about tackling the ride. Fuller stressed that both competitive riders trying to beat their friends and personal best times, as well as recreational riders who don’t give a hoot how fast they ride, are welcome.
Competitive riders will launch from the winter closure gate at 9 a.m. Recreational riders will pedal off at 9:15 a.m. The 10-mile route twists through the “narrows” sections of the highway, alongside the Roaring Fork and up the Lost Man switchback before ending at Independence. There’s a vertical gain of nearly 2,500 feet.
Fuller said the ride’s appeal is the opportunity to bike the road without vehicles. Many riders go beyond the ghost town after catching their breath. However, a CDOT contractor is working on the top cut so participants are encouraged not to go to the summit, Fuller said.
Participants can have bags with extra clothing shuttled from the ride’s start to the ghost town.
A post-ride party will be held at the Cantina. There will be a raffle for numerous prizes, including a mountain bike.
Registration for the ride will be available today through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Aspen Velo and Ute Mountaineer. The cost for advance registration is $25. Registration at the race start on Saturday will be $35.
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The Roaring Fork School District began its transition of bringing students back to school for in-person learning on Monday, starting with K-3. If all goes well, grades 5-8 will start Oct. 26 and high school students on Nov. 2.