Runners barred from Moore parcel for race |

Runners barred from Moore parcel for race

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Competitors at Saturday’s Chris Severy Invitational Cross Country Challenge won’t be making tracks through the Moore Open Space on their way to the finish line.

Aspen High School’s request to again route the 5-kilometer cross-country race through the tract of land was rejected by a Pitkin County open space official. The school was also looking to run Saturday’s Chuck Severy Memorial 5K across the parcel.

Recently, the Aspen Recreation Department’s application to use the open space for the Sept. 21 Golden Leaf half-marathon also got a thumbs-down from Gary Tennenbaum, land steward for the county’s Open Space and Trails Program.

The high-impact running events simply aren’t compatible with the management plan for the property, adopted by the Open Space and Trails Board and county commissioners in 2001, he explained.

The plan limits summer use of the open space to the fringes of the roughly 60-acre parcel, added Dale Will, executive director of the Open Space Program.

Tennenbaum rejected the applications to use the nordic ski trail through the property for the running events on that basis, Will said.

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“We look at the management plan for the property – it really limits use of that trail to basically winter nordic,” Tennenbaum confirmed.

The nordic trail on the parcel is part of a larger trail system for skiers.

AHS cross-country coach Chris Keleher scrambled to put together a new course when his request to use the Moore property this year was denied.

“I was surprised – mostly because they let me use it last year without a problem,” he said.

The high school was granted a special-use permit to use the open space for last year’s invitational and memorial run, but the magnitude of the event apparently caught open space officials off guard.

“We didn’t realize how big it was,” Tennenbaum said.

This year’s application indicated as many as 600 runners would be crossing through the property. That sum includes middle and high school athletes as well as members of the general public participating in the Chuck Severy Memorial 5K.

The Golden Leaf, organized by Ute Mountaineer, attracted 420 runners. The city Recreation Department was a partner in hosting the Golden Leaf weekend of events.

The nordic trail that crosses the Moore parcel is only about 1.5 kilometers in length, making it fairly easy for race organizers to set another course to make up that distance, Tennenbaum theorized.

The Moore property, however, was part of an ideal race course, according to Keleher.

“It’s true cross country – it’s challenging terrain,” he said. “It’s rolling – there are actually some pretty good hills in there.”

But, Keleher feels racers will face an equally challenging course that follows a nordic trail easement through the Meadowood and Five Trees subdivisions – a route used three years ago. The homeowners’ associations graciously granted his request to use the trail, he said.

The Moore property, a scenic swath of sagebrush, serviceberry and gambel oak, is located west of the intersection of Highway 82 and Maroon Creek Road. It’s the property across Maroon Creek Road from the high school track.

The open space has been identified as valuable habitat for ground-nesting birds. In addition, mule deer are currently mating on the parcel.

“I was just out there … the deer were doing their thing,” Tennenbaum said.

Although the open space won’t be open to runners, the county is planning to establish an interpretive trail on the property next summer that will give people a better opportunity to explore the parcel.

That trail was cut this year, Tennenbaum said, leading into the site from the pedestrian overpass over Maroon Creek Road. The trail will dead-end at the high point on the parcel and hikers will retrace their steps to exit the open space.

The Moore Open Space, acquired in 1992, was the first major purchase for the then-fledging county Open Space and Trails Program. The estate of James E. Moore sold the prime piece of real estate as open space for $3 million.

[Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is]