Ranger district eyes rule changes | AspenTimes.com

Ranger district eyes rule changes

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Camping more than seven days in a row along Lincoln Creek Road could be prohibited with a proposed rule change on the White River National Forest.

But on the other hand, the leash law on the popular Government Trail could be relaxed.

The U.S. Forest Service’s Aspen Ranger District is currently seeking comment on a host of regulation changes affecting areas of the national forest near Aspen.

Some changes are relatively minor, while others may elicit some strong opinions, according to Tim Lamb, project manager at the Aspen Ranger District.

The district is considering two changes to the regulations imposed on the Government Trail, which connects the Maroon Creek Valley to the Snowmass Ski Area, including dropping the leash law for dogs and requiring dog owners to have voice command over their pets.

“That’s one where I expect we’ll hear from both sides of the controversy,” Lamb said. “I have been on that trail many times and have yet to see a dog on a leash.”

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The trail is popular with mountain bikers and hikers. “If you’re biking,” he said, “it’s almost impossible to have your dog on a leash.”

The Forest Service is also considering new language that would expand the seasonal wildlife closure on the Government Trail to encompass all the forest land between the West Buttermilk boundary and the east Snowmass Ski Area boundary. Currently, only the trail is technically closed from May 15 to June 20, but the intent, Lamb said, was to make the entire area off-limits to protect elk during calving season.

The expanded closure area would include the trail that drops down from the top of Buttermilk toward Government Trail.

“I don’t think people realize that’s part of the closure area,” he said.

Also proposed is limiting camping to seven days at the dispersed sites along Lincoln Creek Road and along the road to Montezuma Basin. In general, camping on the forest is limited to 14 days.

“The purpose of those sites is for the weekend recreationist,” Lamb said. “If you’re staying more than seven days, you’re starting to use it as a residence.”

A number of regulation changes are aimed at the Maroon Lake area. Most notably, the ranger district has proposed allowing anglers to wade in the lake.

“Currently, you cannot be in or on the water of Maroon Lake. Our purpose is really to prevent boats on the lake. That is going to remain,” Lamb said.

Keeping anglers out of the water is a difficult regulation to enforce, and visitors along the lake shore are probably safer if fly-fishermen are wading out into the water to cast, he said. “There’s a ton of people in the line of fire.”

Other regulation changes would allow overnight parking in the West Maroon trailhead lot, eliminate the no-parking zone currently designated for horse trailers at the East Maroon portal, and eliminate the required permit for groups of 25 or more people at the East Maroon portal and at Maroon Lake. The national policy requires permits for 75 or more people; the local regulations would be changed to match the national one, Lamb said.

“We want to eliminate confusing regulations, or regulations that may no longer be relevant,” he said.

Anyone who wishes to comment on the proposed rule changes may submit their comments in writing or by phone no later than Dec. 31. Send comments to: District Ranger; Aspen Ranger District; 806 W. Hallam St.; Aspen, CO 81611. For specific information about the changes, contact Lamb at 925-3445.

Any rule changes that are adopted will probably go into effect by next summer, Lamb said.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com]

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