Smuggler land remains off-limits | AspenTimes.com

Smuggler land remains off-limits

Janet Urquhart

New open space on Smuggler Mountain will remain mostly off-limits to the public until old, collapsed mine tunnels on the property are deemed safe, according to Pitkin County officials.Meanwhile, a new loop around the edge of the property is open to travel, said Gary Tennenbaum, land steward for the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails program. From the upper bench on Smuggler, where a picnic area already exists on the mesa above the observation platform, users can now follow a road back down to the Hunter Creek Cutoff road, creating a small loop on land that was once closed off by the late George “Wilk” Wilkinson. Aspen and Pitkin County purchased about 170 acres from Wilkinson late last year, opening up new possibilities for public use of Smuggler, but the area that was once Wilkinson’s compound remains closed. Wilkinson died last month.The junk that was once piled on the site has been removed – that effort got under way in August – but several old mines pose a potential hazard.”We really hope people would stay out, because there could be potential dangers there,” Tennenbaum said.The county hopes to consult with the Bureau of Mine Reclamation to assess the safety of the area, according to Dale Will, director of the Open Space and Trails program.”On the one hand, we want to preserve public safety, but on the other hand, we don’t want to destroy any historical artifacts,” he said.At the very least, the old mine openings will be fenced off, Will said.Currently, all of the roads that lead to Wilkinson’s former compound are barricaded and marked as closed, Tennenbaum said.Among the old mine shafts on the new open space are the Boulder shaft and the Bushwacker. The openings of both have collapsed, but the latter contains “a ton of junk” and may go down 800 to 1,000 feet. It may be completely collapsed, but that’s something officials need to find out, Tennenbaum said.Smuggler users are already familiar with one collapsed mine shaft – the cutoff road goes right past a big hole in the ground that was the Iowa. It is fenced off, though the fence is collapsing.Next summer, open space officials plan to initiate a public discussion on use of the new open space. Already, someone has created a new mountain bike trail on Smuggler, according to Tennenbaum. It crosses a wet area, however, and its use has created a mess.There should be opportunities to cut some new single-track trails on Smuggler, though, he said.”We want to see what the public wants, but we don’t want people going up there and creating their own trails,” Tennenbaum said.Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com