Snowmass approves Sky Mountain Park plan – sort of | AspenTimes.com

Snowmass approves Sky Mountain Park plan – sort of

Jill Beathard
Snowmass Sun
Aspen, CO Colorado

Jill Beathard/Snowmass SunHikers come down the Viewline Trail in Sky Mountain Park on May 17. A sign indicates that dogs are prohibited past this point. Currently dogs are allowed only on the edge of the park.

SNOWMASS VILLAGE – The Snowmass Village Town Council approved a master plan for the management of Sky Mountain Park on Monday but did not approve dog restrictions that are currently in place on the 2,500-acre property or proposed guidelines for hunting.

Instead, the council sent those discussions back to Pitkin County, mainly because of feelings from residents that changing the plan now would dampen their willingness to watch tax funds go to pay for the land and its care in years to come.

As of now, dogs will not be allowed on the former Droste property, a part of Sky Mountain Park, owned by the county. Currently dogs are restricted to trails on the edge of Sky Mountain Park in order to protect wildlife habitat in the park’s interior.

Many residents said they felt “duped” because they weren’t aware that dogs would be prohibited in the park when they voted for the town to contribute to the purchase of the Droste property.

Alan Altman said he didn’t think dogs had more of an impact than horses, bike riders and hunters and said he didn’t trust that data supported that notion.

“And again, if this does go through, I personally and a number of members of this audience will move to get something on the ballot to prevent the further funding of this,” Altman said. “And that is not a threat – that’s a promise.”

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In 2010, the town approved by vote to contribute $2 million over seven years to the purchase. The open space purchase totaled $17 million.

Councilman Fred Kucker also disagreed with the restriction.

“I as a voter had no idea it would be as restricted as you want to make it,” Kucker said to Hunt Walker, of the town Public Works Department, and Gary Tennenbaum, of Pitkin County Open Space and Trails, both on the Sky Mountain Park planning team. “Don’t be surprised if there is a referendum circulated and this town’s pledge is on the ballot.”

Councilman Jason Haber said allowing hunting on the land was more of a concern to him. According to the current plan, elk hunting will be allowed on the Pitkin County-owned parcels for four to six days during the last public rifle season in mid-November. As many as five licensed hunters, chosen by a lottery, will be allowed access.

The council made a motion to approve the plan except for the dog prohibition and the hunting. Town Manager Russell Forrest said he thought that was a good expression of where the council stood on the park.

“I’d make the further recommendation … that some further discussion between the two jurisdictions will be necessary,” Forrest said.

Changes still could occur. Snowmass Village could choose to change the restriction on the portion of the park that is town land. Some of the trails, both existing and yet to be constructed, cross Sky Mountain Park through both county and town land.

“I think we might be at this impasse where the (trails connect),” Tennenbaum said. “How do we compromise on that, the connection part of that?”

Councilman John Wilkinson said he thought the plan should be approved as it is so that the management can begin to be implemented.

Some residents also brought up the issue of the dog prohibition on the North Rim Trail. The council previously was told the residents of Horse Ranch would have to unanimously vote to change the restriction there because it was one of the conditions of the original planned unit development.

Town Attorney John Dresser said that is not the case.

“To amend the PUD is the council’s decision,” he said.

Wilkinson said that was a separate issue from the Sky Mountain Park management-plan approval and that the council should take it up at a later date.

jbeathard@snowmasssun.com