Recreation management plan for Maroon Bells halfway complete |

Recreation management plan for Maroon Bells halfway complete

Officials overseeing planning process look to public for feedback to shape second half of process for recreation management plan for Maroon Bells Scenic Area

Two e-bikers make their way to the Maroon Bells on Maroon Creek Road in Aspen during summer. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

A recreation management plan that has been in the works for six months to address the surge in visitors to the Maroon Bells Scenic Area needs some public input, and officials are asking people to participate in the next phase of planning.

The development of a comprehensive recreation management plan was launched this past February to address challenges posed by increased visitation to the area, located 10 miles west of Aspen on Maroon Creek Road.

Pitkin County, the city of Aspen, the White River National Forest, Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, Aspen Skiing Co., and the Aspen Chamber Resort Association are partnering on the development of the plan.

With the public’s input, the plan aims to identify sustainable levels of access to and recreation in the scenic area while accounting for local economic and other community impacts.

All modes of transportation and types of access are being considered as part of the planning process.

Brian Pettet, public works director for Pitkin County, said Tuesday that data is currently being analyzed from this past summer’s bike usage on Maroon Creek Road.

The explosion of e-bikes on the road, which is under the county’s jurisdiction, is just one of the driving factors for the comprehensive recreation plan.

Using a tube counter on the road, the county counted how many bikes traveled to the Maroon Bells area between June and October.

The peak month was September and an average of 154 bikes were on the road in a day. On the highest use day, Sept. 24, there were 316 bicyclists using Maroon Creek Road.

“It’s a lot higher than I thought it would be,” Pettet said.

The counter is set up to be able to determine based on pulse whether the mode of travel was a regular bike or an e-bike. That information is still being analyzed.

The county asked e-bike rental shops to put a tracking sticker on each bike, so that the local government could get a gauge how many e-bikers are using the road.

Pettet said a presentation will be made Dec. 6 to the Pitkin Board of County Commissioners, which decided earlier this year to just monitor the activity rather than limit the number of people who can bike on the road.

The public is invited to participate in a workshop on Dec. 7 in Aspen to provide input and hear about progress made on the recreation management plan.

Challenges being addressed in the plan include maintaining a quality visitor experience while minimizing impacts to natural resources.

“That’s the reason for the recreation management plan, addressing the what the carrying capacity is and the user experience,” Pettet said.

White River National Forest Aspen-Sopris District Ranger Kevin Warner said the planning effort is about halfway complete.

“We are starting to develop some alternatives for managing the area, so it’s important the public stay involved in what will become the final recreational plan,” he said.

The county’s role in the effort is to talk about the general use of the road and the scenic area and ask the public if they are satisfied with the bus and parking reservation system that has been implemented to limit the number of people going to the Bells, along with the question of whether there should be more environmental protections.

The public is invited to stop by anytime between 5-7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 7 at the Pitkin County Building located at 530 E. Main St. to hear about progress made on the plan over the past six months and provide input on initial findings and recommendations for the future of the Maroon Bells.


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