Trail rehab on slate for Bells | AspenTimes.com

Trail rehab on slate for Bells

The U.S. Forest Service and nonprofit Colorado Fourteeners Initiative are studying a project to repair environmental degradation in the Maroon Bells. (Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times)

The Maroon Bells are in line for a little tender loving care.The U.S. Forest Service and nonprofit Colorado Fourteeners Initiative are studying a project to repair some environmental degradation climbers have caused.

The targeted area is between treeline and about 13,000 feet on the northeast ridge of North Maroon Peak. Researchers in a Peak Rangers program co-founded by CFI and the Forest Service said the trail climbs steeply into fragile tundra. Severe erosion has forced hikers to seek other routes, creating braided trails.CFI and the Forest Service want to designate one trail, stop the erosion, close the other routes and restore the vegetation on them.The work wouldn’t be undertaken until 2009 or 2010, but interested climbers and hikers can participate in discussions and planning next year, according to CFI executive director T.J. Rapoport.

The Forest Service and CFI will hold public meetings next year to thoroughly discuss problem and possible solutions. The Forest Service would conduct a study on the environmental impacts, federal law requires, the next year. The project would be designed in the third year. All that will occur before a crew hits the ground, Rapoport said.CFI has already undertaken two projects in the Aspen area with the blessing of the Forest Service. It rerouted a trail on the approach to Capitol Lake several years ago and for the last two summers has worked on lower Pyramid Peak (see the cover story in this week’s Aspen Times Weekly for more on that project).

CFI monitors environmental conditions on the 54 peaks in Colorado over 14,000 feet, undertakes trail projects and educates visitors on eco-friendly use. It works with the Forest Service to prioritize projects throughout the state.Martha Moran of the Aspen Sopris Ranger District said the Bells project is the highest priority among the six fourteeners in Pitkin County. She is seeking Forest Service funding and outside grants for the project.More information about the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative is available at http://www.14ers.org.