Public gets look at Droste open space near Snowmass

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times

SNOWMASS VILLAGE – Some locals are apparently eager to see exactly what a consortium of upper valley governments wants to acquire with the proposed $18 million purchase of the Droste property.

Pitkin County Commissioner Jack Hatfield has arranged Jeep tours of the 742-acre private property. It encompasses the ridge that extends from Snowmass Village to Highway 82, dividing the Brush Creek and Owl Creek valleys.

Hatfield said this week he intends to register an issue committee with the Colorado Secretary of State. The goal is to raise funds through donations to the committee in order to pay the cost of the Jeep tours up onto the ridge, arranged through Blazing Adventures.

Blazing Adventures has offered to run the trips at cost, Hatfield said. Members of the public who sign up for the excursions don’t have to pay.

“We’re getting at least three calls a day on it,” said Evan Cree, assistant director of group services with Blazing Adventures.

The company plans to run the tours on the next few Sundays. This weekend’s trips are almost completely booked, he said. Blazing Adventures is running three vehicles up to the ridge on Sundays; each accommodates six passengers plus a driver and tour guide. They start at 1 p.m. at the Rodeo Lot.

The county is spearheading a push to buy the property, which includes the two-mile ridgetop and the hillsides that come up from the valley floors to either side. From the top, visitors are greeted with stunning views of the upper Roaring Fork Valley. Both Aspen and Snowmass Village can be seen from west end of the ridge.

Snowmass Village voters will cast ballots in November on a proposed tax (Referendum 2E) to raise $2 million toward the purchase.

“I don’t want to miss one opportunity to get people up here,” Hatfield said. “I think of it as an education campaign, not a political campaign.

“We really want people to understand what they’re getting,” he added.

The open space, which would be named Wapiti Ridge Mountain Park if the purchase goes through, would be closed to public use during the winter months, when elk migrate through, taking refuge in its draws and forage on the south-facing slopes.

The ridge would be open to hiking, mountain biking and equestrian use the rest of the year. The top of the ridge offers a vantage point from which to see the property’s connections to existing open space, and the potential for trail connections.

The open space purchase would prevent development on the ridge, where the county approved nine homesites last year.

The purchase contract calls for spending $10 million by Dec. 15, 2010, and the remaining $8 million next year. The county Open Space and Trails program is to put up $10 million; Snowmass is asking voters to contribute $2 million and the city of Aspen has agreed to provide $1 million from its open space fund. The county is also seeking a $2.5 million Great Outdoors Colorado grant. Under the proposed funding scheme, $2.5 million will need to be raised privately.

Video is scheduled to be shot on the property Friday to help with the fundraising effort, according to Tim McFlynn, chairman of the county’s Open Space and Trails board of directors. The effort will be privately funded, he said.

Taking video of a parcel is unprecedented in the open space program, said its director, Dale Will.

Proponents of the purchase also hope to arrange equestrian and mountain bike outings on the ridge before the snow flies. The property is not open to the public except through escorted tours authorized by Open Space and Trails.


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