Planning begins on trail access to Droste property |

Planning begins on trail access to Droste property

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Pitkin County Open Space and TrailsThe Droste open space, outlined in red, is likely to be accessed through public land near Snowmass Village (on the left), at least initially.

ASPEN – May 15 is the official opening date for the Droste open space, Pitkin County open space officials confirmed Thursday. Now, they just have to figure out how to get the public onto the property.

“By May 15, we have to have that clearly worked out,” said Tim McFlynn, chairman of the county’s Open Space and Trails board of directors, at a meeting of the board on Thursday.

Representatives of the county, city of Aspen and town of Snowmass Village will quickly begin work on an interim management plan for the property that outlines trail access. User groups and adjacent private property owners are also likely to be involved in the discussion. The goal is to have the plan ready for adoption by the end of March, according to Gary Tennenbaum, land steward for the county’s Open Space and Trails program.

“I think we all want this interim plan done as fast as possible,” he said.

The Open Space and Trails board earlier this month enacted an interim closure of the Droste property out of deference to wildlife, leaving the specific closure dates to be determined. Yesterday, they agreed to open up the property on May 15, but took no action to formalize a proposed Dec. 1 closure.

A fall closure date will be identified in the interim management plan, Tennenbaum said.

The 841-acre property, which encompasses the scenic ridgeline separating the Brush Creek and Owl Creek valleys outside of Snowmass Village, was purchased in late December. Officials have acknowledged the public is anxious to use the open space this year, once the spring elk migration across it is finished, even though a full-blown management plan for both the Droste open space and surrounding public parcels will take the better part of this year, if not longer. That broader plan is expected to outline trail routes on the Droste land and trail connections beyond its borders.

“It’s going to be so much more than the individual parts when we pull this all together,” said Dale Will, county Open Space and Trails director.

In the meantime, at least some existing trails on the Droste property will be available this year for hikers, mountain bikers and equestrian use. No motorized uses are planned.

“The public deserves the ability to get in there this summer to see what currently exists,” said John Wilkinson, Snowmass Village town councilman.

A top priority this spring will be establishing access onto the newly acquired property. The most promising point of entry is from the Snowmass Village side, through town-owned property referred to as Hidden Valley, where the town’s cemetery is located, according to Hunt Walker, Snowmass Village public works director. From there, hikers and others would cross onto the county’s Seven Star open space to reach the Droste property.

There are several old trails from Snowmass Village end that climb up onto the property, according to Wilkinson, though they may be overgrown with vegetation and in need of some clearing. It won’t be a matter of constructing a new trail, he said.

County property managed by the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport also leads up onto the Droste parcel on the west side of the airport, off Owl Creek Road, Will said. A site visit with airport officials is planned to see what access is possible there, he said.

Atop the ridge, various social trails that lead onto private property on both the Owl Creek and Brush Creek sides need to be marked with signs to keep people from wandering where they don’t belong, said Jeff Woods, city of Aspen parks and recreation director.

In the broader picture, the Droste property is the missing link amid some 50 or 60 miles of other trails, he estimated.

The Droste property was purchased from brothers Peter and Bruce Droste for $17 million. Pitkin County committed $10 million to the acquisition, with $2 million to come from Snowmass Village, $1 million from the city of Aspen and $2.5 million from a Great Outdoors Colorado grant. Open space officials hope to raise the remaining $1.5 million privately.

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