Pitkin County OKs winter parking near Lenado | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County OKs winter parking near Lenado

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times

ASPEN – Parking areas along Woody Creek Road above Lenado will be designated again this winter, though the practice has been challenged by a pending lawsuit.

Pitkin County commissioners voted 3-2 Wednesday to direct the placement of parking signs along one side of the road, and agreed on a 4-1 vote to a prohibition on overnight parking.

The discussion drew a packed crowd to the commissioners’ cramped meeting room; snowmobilers who support the practice and Lenado property owners who are either supportive or opposed to the parking reiterated viewpoints that have been voiced at several public discussions and by members of two different task forces assigned to address the issue.

“Why are we back in this room again?” said Gary Kelly, a skier who uses a snowmobile to access the backcountry. “Stop wasting your time and my tax dollars on this issue.”

The road is a portal to the backcountry – a fact Lenado residents need to accept, he argued. Attempts to prevent people from parking on the road is “discriminating nimbyism against snowmobilers,” he said.

“That parking’s been there for 20 years or more,” said Howard Vagneur, who runs a commercial snowmobiling operation farther up the road, beyond the disputed parking area, which is used by private snowmobilers and other backcountry users.

Commissioners last winter agreed to designate two stretches along the road for parking, spurring a lawsuit by Lenado property owners Frank Peters and Daniel Delano. The suit claimed the action altered the status quo by formalizing parking that has been occurring illegally, resulting in trespassing and devaluation of their property. Their land abuts the road on both sides in various stretches in and near Lenado.

Proper parking for backcountry users heading into Kobey Park and other areas outside of Lenado should be addressed by the U.S. Forest Service, argued attorney John Neiley, representing Peters and Delano. The county is dealing with it because the federal agency hasn’t, he said.

“What we don’t want to see is Lenado turned into a sacrifice zone,” Neiley said. “This is a problem I think we need to nip in the bud now.”

Designated parking, where snowmobilers park vehicles pulling trailers and stage their outings, is dumping an intense use in the neighborhood, Lenado resident Delano told commissioners. Noise and trash are among the impacts, he said.

“It’s not parking of cars,” he said. “This is not an action that should be taken lightly.”

Woody Creek Road extends southeast from Woody Creek. Shortly beyond the tiny community of Lenado, the road turns north, crossing the creek, and becomes Larkspur Mountain Road. The designated parking areas are located between Lenado and the bridge, a stretch plowed by the county along with the rest of Woody Creek Road. Vagneur’s operation is located a short distance beyond the bridge.

Commissioners established the parking areas last winter as a safety measure – directing the parking to areas of the road that are wide and straight. The goal was preventing haphazard parking that could block access for emergency vehicles.

They asked the sheriff’s office to provide enforcement, and deputies ticketed a handful of vehicles, according to Sheriff Joe DiSalvo.

“This is clearly a safety improvement in my mind,” said Commissioner Rob Ittner.

Commissioners Rachel Richards and Michael Owsley voted against re-establishing the parking areas on Wednesday, arguing the Woody Creek Caucus and the neighborhood’s planning commission hadn’t adequately addressed the proposal. The county’s Planning and Zoning Commission rejected the proposal for similar reasons.

Ultimately, a better parking arrangement than using the road is what’s needed, several commissioners agreed. Parking beyond the bridge or in an area carved out of Forest Service land have been suggested in the past.

“There needs to be a long-term solution,” Commissioner George Newman said.


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