Pitkin County to add open space ranger | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County to add open space ranger

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – An additional seasonal ranger for the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails program won endorsement Tuesday from county commissioners despite a clampdown on hiring in county government.

The ranger, who will work six to seven months of the year, plus a vehicle, will cost $31,500 next year. Open Space and Trails is funded through a separate, dedicated property tax.

The program’s expanded holdings are driving the need for another seasonal ranger, said Gary Tennenbaum, land steward. He named the growing use of the Redstone Boulders climbing area, this year’s opening of Filoha Meadows to the public and completion of the initial stretch of the Crystal Trail as examples. All of those amenities are located in the Crystal River Valley.

The county also needs to be able to respond when private landowners involved in open space deals call for enforcement, said Dale Will, program director.

Most of the program’s ranger patrol time is currently spent on Smuggler Mountain, in the Hunter Creek Valley and on the Rio Grande Trail, he noted. The Rio Grande gets the bulk of the attention.

“It just seems we’re spending a huge amount of time there,” said Commissioner Jack Hatfield. “There’s no way we can adjust that ranger time instead of hiring a new ranger?”

The Rio Grande sees 300 to 600 users a day in the summer, including bicyclists, joggers, walkers, dogs and children, said John Armstrong, trail ranger.

“I don’t think we can spend enough time on that trail,” he said.

Safety is an issue, said Armstrong, citing a bicyclist who was hurt several years ago in a collision with an off-leash dog who is facing a fourth surgery as a result.

“People need to feel safe on their own trails,” he said.