Pitkin County open space officials face trail citations | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County open space officials face trail citations

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado

ASPEN – Two Pitkin County Open Space and Trails board members have been cited by the U.S. Forest Service for their work to mark a trail leading onto property that is the subject of a controversial proposed land swap.

Board of trustees member Hawk Greenway confirmed Wednesday that he received citations, for two separate infractions, via certified mail. The fines total $850, he said.

Board member Anne Rickenbaugh said she, too, was cited for the same alleged violations.

One citation is for “cutting or otherwise damaging any timber, tree or other forest product, except as authorized by a special-use authorization, timber sale contract, or federal law or regulation,” according to the Forest Service.

The two also have been cited for “constructing, placing or maintaining any kind of road, trail, structure, fence, enclosure, communication equipment, significant surface disturbance, or other improvement on National Forest System lands or facilities without a special-use authorization, contract, or approved operating plan when such authorization is required.”

“I don’t know what kind of case they have. We’ll find out in court, I guess,” Greenway said. “They’re citing us for things we didn’t do – namely building a trail.”

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Greenway said he anticipates that he will have to appear in federal court in Grand Junction on the charges. Rickenbaugh said she will not simply pay the fines but also will opt for a court appearance. No court date is set on the citations, she said.

Rickenbaugh and Greenway, acting as private citizens rather than in their capacity as Open Space and Trails board members, mapped out a route onto BLM land at the base of Mount Sopris, near Carbondale, earlier this summer. Their goal was to find out if a public route existed and to facilitate visits to the property by people interested in seeing acreage that would be privatized in a land swap proposed by wealthy landowners Leslie and Abigail Wexner.

The Wexners want to fold more than 1,200 acres of BLM land into their Two Shoes Ranch on the flanks of Mount Sopris. In exchange, they have offered to the BLM the 557-acre Sutey Ranch north of Carbondale along with 117 acres along Prince Creek Road. Water rights from Sutey also would go to the BLM, along with a $1.1 million donation for a management plan and long-term management of the Sutey property.

In addition to giving up 1,268 acres in Pitkin County adjacent to Two Shoes Ranch, the BLM would relinquish 195 acres on Horse Mountain, southwest of Eagle.

Rickenbaugh and Greenway have circulated directions and GPS coordinates to access the BLM property adjacent to Two Shoes via Forest Service land. The route begins at the base of Nettle Creek Road where it intersects with Highway 133, south of Carbondale.

A well-used trail follows most of the route, but they attempted to mark it in some areas by erecting cairns and flagging trees. Some vegetation was trimmed, as well.

Greenway said their efforts came in response to claims by the Wexners’ representatives that the BLM property is all but inaccessible to the public.

He called the issuance of the citations “hugely politically motivated.”

“It’s intimidation of the worst sort, and the message is clear,” Greenway said.

The BLM, after seeking public comment on the exchange (the comment period ended earlier this summer), is at work on an environmental assessment of the proposed swap. A decision is expected in 2013.

Meanwhile, the debate over the land swap spawned a Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/SuteyLandExchangeFacts – created by opponents of the land trade.

Go to http://www.blm.gov/co/crvfo (look for the link to “Sutey Ranch Land Exchange Information”) for details about the proposal and to review the public comments submitted to the BLM regarding the land trade.

janet@aspentimes.com