Pitco may regulate recreation on backside of Aspen Mountain | AspenTimes.com

Pitco may regulate recreation on backside of Aspen Mountain

A recreation management plan for the backside of Aspen Mountain may result in new rules requiring commercial operators to obtain permits in order to use the popular area.

A contemplated amendment to the county’s Rural and Remote zone district would require commercial outfitters to obtain special-use approval to use county roads. County planning staff members have also suggested that the county create a permitting system for commercial outfitters, with the county sharing regulatory power with the U.S. Forest Service.

Conflicts between homeowners and snowmobilers, between bicyclists and motorcyclists, and between independent powder skiers and commercial powder tours all helped spark a lengthy planning effort that has resulted in the management plan.

Ellen Sassano, county long-range planner, and Planning Director Cindy Houben recommended to county commissioners Tuesday that the county impose a moratorium on use of the area by any commercial outfitter that does not have a permit. Commercial operators include such businesses as jeep tours, snowmobile rental businesses, powder skiing outfitters and bicycle rental shops.

The commissioners, however, failed to see how a moratorium could be enforced, and moreover, why a moratorium would have any advantage over simply instituting a permitting process. Commissioner Dorothea Farris suggested a moratorium seemed ineffectual.

Commissioner Leslie Lamont questioned spending time trying to enforce a moratorium instead of creating a permitting process and setting a maximum number of commercial users for the Richmond Ridge area on the back of the mountain. “We need to get started with implementation,” she said.

A nine-member citizens group, formed at the completion of the draft management plan, has undertaken a number of projects with the goals of the management plan in mind. Some group members will begin to place a few educational signs in appropriate places in the management area. Others will create an educational map or brochure for distribution at bike shops, car rental agencies and through the Forest Service.

The management plan is the result of more than a year of work by Pitkin County and Forest Service staff members and a group of citizens concerned with overuse of the area by recreational interests. One of the greatest conundrums encountered by the citizens group that created the Richmond Ridge plan is that neither the county nor the U.S. Forest Service has money to spend on enforcing recreational regulations.

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