Pitkin County open to returning as partner for pro cycling race | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County open to returning as partner for pro cycling race

ASPEN – The Pitkin County commissioners granted what one board member labeled a “huge, large general support” Tuesday for returning as a partner with the city of Aspen in a bid to sponsor a stage of the 2013 USA Pro Cycling Challenge cycling race.

The commissioners had a few caveats, but nothing that resembled a big hurdle. Commissioner Rachel Richards said she didn’t want the county’s condition of support to hinge on allowing more camping in the high-elevation tundra of Independence Pass.

The Aspen-Sopris Ranger District prohibited camping outside established campgrounds on the upper portion of the pass during the race in August this year because of concerns over damage to the ecosystem. Camping was allowed the previous year.

Richards said she supports the Forest Service decision. She doesn’t want to see the agency pressured to reverse itself. If it is, she won’t support the county joining the partnership

“I know I can’t go there,” she said.

No other commissioners objected to Richards’ direction, though Commissioner Jack Hatfield said he would support having the Forest Service examine “adjustments” to locations for camping as long as the environment wasn’t compromised.

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The commissioners agreed with Nancy Lesley, director of special events and marketing for the city of Aspen, that the camping ban could have been conveyed differently. Lesley, in diplomatic wording that didn’t refer specifically to the Forest Service, said the city wants to work with its partners on a “unified message with a positive spin” on cycling-race issues next year. Information could be given on where people can camp and how they can enjoy the race at the top of Independence Pass without stressing the restrictions, she said .

In another condition, Commissioner Michael Owsley said he wanted to assess how much the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office spent on in-kind service for the cycling race before the board gave the final OK to a partnership. County Manager Jon Peacock said the Sheriff’s Office provided about $9,000 in service in 2011. He said he doubted that this year’s amount would top that but said he would provide figures to the board.

Nevertheless, the commissioners gave what Hatfield described as “huge, large general support.”

scondon@aspentimes.com