Pooped out on Aspen’s Smuggler Mountain
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” Now highlighted on Smuggler Mountain Road: Dog poop.
An Aspen vigilante recently used orange spray paint to highlight the many bags and piles of dog poop left in the snow on the multi-use road popular among hikers, bikers and dog walkers.
On Friday, the spray painter wrote a message in the snow near the platform at the observation deck that declared: “That’s a lot of crap on Smuggler Mountain! Pick up after your dogs!”
“It’s just a plethora of poop bags have been left along Smuggler Mountain Road,” said John Armstrong, Pitkin County Open Space and Trails ranger. “Smuggler gets so much use, it’s very visible and very offensive.”
While most pet owners take responsibility for their animals’ feces, heavy use over the busy holiday season left the road a mess, Armstrong said.
“It’s a public health concern.”
Spray paint in the snow might not be a “great solution” to the problem, but Armstrong said the circular markings on the road have at least called his attention to the situation.
“It’s disgusting and pitiful that people don’t take charge of their pets,” Armstrong said.
There are black plastic bags available for picking up dog feces, and a trash can near the parking area where dog owners can deposit the bags, Armstrong said.
Many dog owners are conscientious, Armstrong said, but many people pick up after their pets on the way up the hill and forget to pick up the bag on the hike down, Armstrong said.
The gravel switchback county road crosses both city of Aspen and Pitkin County open space. Smuggler Mountain rises up on the edge of town.
County littering fines (including poop bags) are $100, and $250 on city open space, Armstrong said.
“But it’s hard to actually catch people,” Armstrong said, adding that county staff will not pick up the mess.
“We are not in the business of picking up people’s poop bags,” Armstrong said. “This is not what your tax dollars are used for.”
Armstrong will write a ticket to anyone violating the county ordinance. But, he said, “We don’t sit out in the brush waiting for people like that.”
He suggested concerned citizens form an action group to address dog poop, litter, and any other issue on the popular trail.
“We would love it if people would self-police each other,” he said.
The Smuggler Mountain area is undergoing a master-planning process, Armstrong said, and he hears a lot of feedback from concerned user groups, including hikers, bikers and dog owners.
“A lot of the input we got was that people are really disgusted and tired of people not taking responsibility for their pets,” Armstrong said.
On a patrol on Wednesday, Armstrong was surprised to find a pile of poop bags near the empty trash can at the base of the mountain.
“People were too lazy to open up the trash can and put [the bags] in there,” Armstrong said. “They’re not winning friends for their user group.”
Armstrong said if the vigilante spray painter continues marking up the snow along Smuggler Mountain Road, it could be considered vandalism.
“I’m not sure that it’s helping the situation, but I think it brings it to a head,” Armstrong said.
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