Pitkin County eyes open space to augment Wingo boat ramp
October 8, 2012
ASPEN – Pitkin County is poised to acquire a parcel that would allow expansion of the public area next to the heavily used Wingo Junction boat ramp on the Roaring Fork River.
The Gold Hill climbing area near Aspen is close to becoming a county open space holding, as well.
The $50,000 Wingo purchase, from county open space and trails funds, will go to county commissioners for initial consideration Wednesday. A public hearing is scheduled Oct. 24, at which time commissioners could give the purchase their final OK.
The land, adjacent to the boat ramp, is part of a 132-plus-acre property across Highway 82 from Lazy Glen, upvalley from Basalt. Owner Ron Kanan has listed the land for sale and approached the county to see if it was interested in an open space acquisition, according to Barb D’Autrechy, open space and trails acquisition manager. The county negotiated the purchase of a portion of Kanan’s holdings to augment the river access next to the boat ramp. Roughly 1.5 acres would be purchased, she said.
The boat ramp, on land owned by the Bureau of Land Management, is used by both commercial and private boaters, as well as anglers, and the area is sometimes dangerously overcrowded, according to a memo to county commissioners.
Last year, Open Space and Trails tallied 4,750 boaters who launched a river trip at Jaffee Park near Woody Creek and pulled out at the Wingo ramp. In addition, the BLM has issued permits for more than 40 operators who use the Wingo ramp to launch trips headed downriver. In a year with high water, allowing an extended rafting season, the Wingo ramp can see more than 6,000 visitors, according to the county memo.
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“It’s a pretty busy boat ramp during high season,” D’Autrechy said.
The ramp staging area, a pullout off Highway 82, can be crowded with rafting-company shuttles and boat trailers, and sometimes boaters are standing around along the edge of the highway, according to D’Autrechy. The open space acquisition would provide space away from the highway for boaters to congregate and could provide a pleasant picnic area as well as future space for expansion of the staging area for boaters.
“It reserves that option. We have no plan to do anything right now,” D’Autrechy said.
Also before commissioners Wednesday is the conveyance of a climbing area that was first offered to the county in 2009.
The Red Butte Ranch Subdivision is prepared to convey to the county a conservation easement on 59 acres and a deed to two separate climbing areas located along the Rio Grande Trail below Aspen – Gold Hill and a winter ice climb known as Stein Falls or Sewer Falls (it’s above the Aspen wastewater treatment plant).
Gold Hill, once a popular rock-climbing area before previous owners closed it off out of liability concerns, will remain closed once the county takes possession until a management plan can be adopted, D’Autrechy said. The plan, to be drafted this winter, is being done with both safety and environmental protection in mind because the old climbing routes haven’t been used in some time, she said.
The Falls ice climb would remain open to the public, though bolting is prohibited.