U.S. Forest Service mulls sale of some of its Aspen property | AspenTimes.com

U.S. Forest Service mulls sale of some of its Aspen property

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – Plans to redevelop the U.S. Forest Service property in Aspen’s West End tentatively include the creation of four free-market lots, according to Ranger Scott Snelson.

He confirmed in a meeting with county commissioners on Tuesday that the lots are part of the plans, but no decision has been made about selling them to help finance the construction of new Forest Service facilities at the site.

“Lots have been charted out just to see if we can fit everything on that parcel. We haven’t ruled that out,” Snelson said. “We haven’t made a final decision on whether those should be sold or not.”

Commissioner Rachel Richards asked if the agency had considered the sale of land on the Aspen property, reiterating that the county would rather not see the Forest Service sell land along the Roaring Fork River in El Jebel to finance the project.

After the Forest Service announced its intention to sell its remaining land at the former Mount Sopris Tree Farm in the midvalley to help fund facilities elsewhere, Pitkin and Eagle counties expressed interest in acquiring about 40 acres along the river to protect the riparian area. There are roughly another 28 acres on an upper bench.

County officials, however, have said they’d rather not have to purchase land that is already in public hands in order to protect it.

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The Forest Service, like just about everyone else, has seen a drop in the value of its properties, Snelson said. The agency doesn’t plan to test the market with its El Jebel property until May, he said.

“We haven’t made any hard decision on what we’re going to do with the tree farm,” Snelson added.

Selling part of its Aspen land would not be sufficient to pay for the improvements the Forest Service is planning at the site, Snelson added.

Design work on the redevelopment is 30 percent complete, meaning the exterior of the buildings has taken shape and some of the interior workings have been sketched out, he said.

Several general schemes for the redevelopment were presented to the public in March; Snelson said he does not yet know when the public will get a look at the planning that has been done since then.

The Forest Service intends to replace its visitor center and administrative offices at the corner of Seventh and Hallam streets in Aspen, along with aging housing structures and other buildings at the site. The agency owns the entire block bounded by Hallam, Smuggler, Seventh and Eighth streets, except for a corner piece where a Victorian home that was formerly Poppies Bistro is located.

All three of the proposals presented last March included one two-bedroom residence and three studio/one-bedroom units, plus a bunkhouse that will sleep 16 seasonal employees – housing for about 20 employees in all. That’s roughly what is there now, Forest Service officials said.

janet@aspentimes.com