Summer wilderness camp near Ruedi will help disabled vets
A proposal by Challenge Aspen to develop property near Ruedi Reservoir to provide a wilderness retreat experience for wounded veterans and people with disabilities sailed through review by the Eagle County commissioners onTuesday.
“This is a very neat community amenity and one we can be proud of,” County Commissioner Jill Ryan said.
Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney added that the proposal was “amazingly thoughtful” in answering wildlife concerns of Colorado Parks and Wildlife and traffic concerns.
Challenge Aspen was founded in 1995 to help people with disabilities. Many of its high-profile activities focus on getting people onto the ski slopes. However, it’s undertaken more summer activities over the years, and a major focus has been on assisting veterans after years of U.S. military involvement in the Middle East.
Challenge Aspen raised funds in 2001 to purchase the Whispering Winds Ranch, on the south flank of Red Table Mountain, 17.5 miles up the Fryingpan Valley from Basalt. Plans for major development crumbled during the recession, according to Challenge Aspen representative Dallas Blaney. Now the nonprofit is proposing a scaled back plan.
Challenge Aspen wants to add 12 teepees for primitive camping, a stocked fishing pond, a 55-foot climbing tower and trails for hiking and hand cycling. The number of teepees would be phased over time. The maximum number of campers at build-out will be 36 for retreats of two to three days, according to the application.
“This town will offer a safe yet challenging opportunity for participants to learn to confront and overcome their fears and thereby gain the confidence they need to confront and overcome the other problems they encounter in daily life,” the application said.
Blaney said Challenge Aspen is aware it will be adding traffic to the busiest section of Frying Pan Road. Therefore, it is pledging to use a van so that participants and staff carpool to the site.
“In total, this development is expected to generate 12 to 15 trips per day on a peak day, to occur only once per week,” the application said. The number of trips will be fewer during the early phase of development.
Blaney said no activity will be undertaken at the ranch prior to June 15 to avoid interference with elk calving.
Ryan and McQueeney approved the application after a brief meeting Tuesday in El Jebel. No members of the public attended. Commissioner Kathy Chandler-Henry was unable to attend.
Whispering Winds Ranch won’t be ready to use in 2016 but possibly will be by summer 2017.
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Don’t freak out if you see helicopters hovering over the Roaring Fork Valley backcountry or fixed-wing aircraft making repeated trips. It is part an annual wildlife study by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.