Pitco wants gondola option in forest plan | AspenTimes.com

Pitco wants gondola option in forest plan

Jeremy Heiman

Pitkin County will ask for the right to consider future ski gondola projects in its comments on the draft plan for the White River National Forest.

Consultant Bob Schultz, who has been assisting the county throughout the process of drafting its comments, wrote an addition to the original letter, asking for the creation of a new land-use designation for the forest plan. It would allow study of the possibility of a gondola between Buttermilk and Snowmass at some future date.

Alternative D, the Forest Service’s preferred alternative for the proposed forest plan, does not include any provisions for aerial transportation corridors. In general, new gondolas and lifts proposed at existing ski areas are for the purpose of making developable real estate more accessible.

Bill Kane, an Aspen Skiing Co. vice president and planner, said he agreed with language crafted by Schultz, and urged the commissioners Wednesday to adopt it. Schultz’s wording specifies that a public entity has to be a proponent of any such project, he noted.

“I don’t think you’re giving anything away,” Kane said. “All you’re doing is preserving the right to study it.”

But Jack Hatfield, Snowmass Village town councilman and wildlife advocate, speaking as a citizen, asked the commissioners to stick with their original comments, which did not include the provision for a gondola.

“This discussion about aerial corridors is a dangerous discussion,” he said. It divides the community’s ability to concentrate on creation of public transportation, he said.

Schultz warned county commissioners that they can’t control what is written in the final forest plan. Whether a designation allowing the study of a gondola appears in the plan is completely the prerogative of National Forest planners, he said.

The commissioners voted 4-1 yesterday to send their original letter with an added section. That addition calls for an added zoning designation in the forest plan, which would allow the study of a gondola project with a forest-plan amendment, and give the county the ability to review the project.

Commissioners will review the new wording next Tuesday.

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