Pitkin County to map its ‘orphan’ trails | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County to map its ‘orphan’ trails

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

ASPEN – More than 100 “orphan” easements – places where the public may not even know it has access to a trail or a stretch of river, for example – will be the focus of a mapping effort this spring headed by the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails program.

Many of the easements predate the 20-year-old program. They were acquired by Pitkin County as part of long-ago land-use actions – development approvals that secured trail connections through private property, for example. With no agency formally assigned to keep tabs on them, they’ve been dubbed orphans.

As it turns out, the orphan recreational easements outnumber the ones that Open Space and Trails has formally acquired during its two-decade existence, according to a staff memo.

Lindsey Utter, recreation planner for Open Space and Trails, has been poring over old files and spread sheets, and jogging the institutional memories of county officials to make a comprehensive list of the orphans.

The city/county GIS Department will be charged with mapping out all of the recreational easements, giving the county a clear picture of exactly what it has acquired, and where. The GIS work will cost the Open Space program $7,500; the goal is to have it finished by March.

“There are definitely easements that aren’t general public knowledge,” according to Utter.

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Most of the orphans are associated with trails and fishing access, but some are winter-season nordic easements and one offers backcountry access, she said.

With the information in hand, Open Space and Trails board member Howie Mallory hopes to see the county start working on acquisitions that will connect the scattered easements together – “see if we can fill in those gaps,” he said.

The East of Aspen Trail, which saw work last summer, is an example of Aspen and Pitkin County piecing together a number of easements acquired over time, Mallory pointed out. The trail, which runs alongside Highway 82 east of town, now extends as far as the Wildwood School. Next summer, it is scheduled to be extended to Difficult Campground, where users can connect with the Difficult Trail, which follows Difficult Creek into the backcountry.

The final piece of the East of Aspen trail was acquired as part of a multi-faceted, federally approved land exchange that was finalized in 2009.

There are other trail easements heading south into the Castle Creek Valley from town, Mallory noted.

He envisions Aspen as the hub, with trails, or spokes, that extend outward from town to places like Ashcroft and Maroon Lake.

“I think when people visualize it, it becomes very exciting,” Mallory said. “You could put on a backpack in Aspen and potentially walk all the way to Maroon Lake without walking on the road.”

janet@aspentimes.com

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