Pitkin County has concerns with forest travel management plan
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” Pitkin County doesn’t exactly want to create problems for the White River National Forest Travel Management Plan (TMP), which is now being drafted and will provide a regulatory framework for the forest that surrounds Aspen and Pitkin County.
But the Board of County Commissioners wants its feelings known regarding items such as public access to the Little Annie Basin backcountry ski terrain; safe driving and parking conditions along county roads leading to heavily used parts of the forest; and allowing motorized travel on legalized “bandit” trails that lie within 300 feet of local creeks and streams ” among other issues.
The commissioners outlined a number of concerns and suggestions Tuesday in Aspen, directing staff members to draw up a list of comments to be submitted to forest officials prior to a Jan. 6 deadline.
The federal agency released its final draft travel management plan in November and is accepting comments from user groups ranging from the Roaring Fork Mountain Biking Association to Wilderness Workshop to the Pitkin County commissioners, to name just a few.
Among the concerns expressed by the commissioners is a proposal to open part of the Arbaney-Kittle Trail near Basalt to motorcycle use. The county, while agreeing that the change in use is appropriate, wants the Forest Service to install signs to “clearly delineate the motorcycle-use portion of the trail.”
In addition, the county wants the Forest Service to change its nomenclature to clearly identify “several trails … within a proposed alignment of the Carbondale to Crested Butte Trail,” including part of the old Crystal railroad grade, in order to ensure that future Forest Service administrations recognize the routes as trails.
“It’s important we remain flexible so we don’t predispose something from not happening,” said Commissioner Jack Hatfield, referring to his unwillingness to try to force the Forest Service to concede a trail’s existence where the federal agency felt no trail existed.
“What we’re trying not to lose is the fact that it is a designated roadway,” retorted Commissioner Dorothea Farris, referring to occasional descriptions of the old rail bed as a “wagon road, or a delivery road.”
Commissioner Michael Owsley objected to the TMP’s call for a parking place in Lenado, at the upper end of Woody Creek Road, for snowmobile trailers planning to ride their machines up to Kobey Park.
He said the road is “essentially a single-lane road with a cliff on one side and a ravine on the other” and is not safe for that volume of use.
“I know of no one in Lenado who wants a parking lot up there,” he said, calling the
road “inadequate” for the number of “large trucks with large trailers” that already use the road.
He said the Forest Service should “look for another access to Kobey Park” rather than “encourage use by putting in a parking lot.”
While others on the board agreed with him, Commissioner Patti Clapper said the Forest Service already has rejected such arguments.
“We have been saying over and over again, ‘we need to address the parking in Lenado,'” she said, noting that the federal agency has no money to build another access road to Kobey Park.
“They don’t have the resources; they don’t plan to do it,” she said.
“We have limited resources, too,” responded Owsley, arguing that a parking lot “may
suit their needs, but it puts a burden on the county that we can’t handle” by over-stressing a county road.
Commissioner Rachel Richards maintained that, once President-elect Barack Obama is in office, local forest officials might find themselves with more resources to work with than was true under the Bush administration.
“We ought to be looking forward,” Hatfield agreed.
The commissioners worked their way through a long list of concerns and directions for the staff to work with in writing up written comments for the draft TMP in time for the Jan. 6 deadline.
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Cam Daniel is a former youth addiction counselor who’s been a Pitkin County sheriff’s deputy for three years.