Users jump the gun on midvalley open space | AspenTimes.com

Users jump the gun on midvalley open space

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
A view from the hillside that climbs onto the Crown shows the agricultural land that is part of the Red Ridge Ranch property. Drafting an interim management plan for the open space begins with an open house Monday in Basalt. Michael Brands / Morris & Fyrwald/Sotheby's International Realty courtesy photo
Michael Brands |

How to manage newly acquired open space in the midvalley is up for discussion beginning Monday, but the controversial property already has resulted in a management headache — trespassing.

The 145-acre Red Ridge Ranch, formerly known as the Saltonstall property, will be the focus of a planning effort that starts with a public open house from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday at Basalt Town Hall.

Pitkin County Open Space and Trails will manage the property, though it’s actually in Eagle County, and is launching the process of creating an interim management plan for its use.

The parcel, off Hooks Spur Road in Emma, provides access between the adjacent Rio Grande Trail and the east side of the Crown, a sprawling, popular recreation area at the base of Mount Sopris. The open space is not yet open to public use, but there was evidence of three mountain bikes coming down off the Crown onto the property last weekend in addition to hiking traffic, according to Gary Tennenbaum, stewardship and trails manager for the county. A no-trespassing sign, affixed to a gate between the federally managed public land of the Crown and Red Ridge Ranch, apparently was ignored, he said.

“We need the people who are doing this to get involved in the process and not trespass,” he said. “Until everyone gets a say,… it’s unfair that people just start using it.”

Though it’s not yet open to use, a new trail has been constructed to bypass a house on private land at the base of the Crown. Elsewhere, users will travel an existing driveway and dirt road leading up onto the Crown once the parcel opens, possibly this summer.

The interim management plan that is yet to be drafted will address use of the parcel, including a Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife recommendation that the access be closed during the winter months to protect deer and elk on the Crown.

“If people aren’t going to obey a closure now, are they going to obey any type of seasonal closure?” Tennenbaum said.

The $5 million Red Ridge Ranch purchase last year involved funds from Pitkin and Eagle counties, the town of Basalt, Great Outdoors Colorado and the Midvalley Trails Committee. The open space accesses Bureau of Land Management property on the Crown that lies within the boundaries of Pitkin, Eagle and Garfield counties.

The acquisition was not without its detractors. Area ranchers who graze cattle on the public land decried the intensified recreational uses that are likely to result on the east end of the Crown. Wildlife advocates also weighed in, and neighbors expressed concern about traffic impacts to the rural area.

There is an existing singletrack trail nearby that connects the Rio Grande Trail and the Crown, but it is steep and crosses a sliver of private property. Supporters of the Red Ridge Ranch access say it will open up the Crown from the Basalt side (most recreational access is currently centered off Prince Creek Road outside of Carbondale, on the west side) and provide a more moderate route on and off the BLM land.

Motorized uses aren’t permitted on county open space, but the interim management plan will define other public uses. Seeking input is the purpose of Monday’s open house.

“We’ve got this new property. What would people like to see?” Tennenbaum said. “We know that people are excited about a new access to the Crown.”

Whether dogs will be permitted on the property also is up for discussion, he said. So is future agricultural use of the property, though it will be irrigated for hay production for the next two seasons.

The interim plan will guide use of the open space for two to five years while the county works with the BLM on a broader plan for the Crown, according to Tennenbaum.


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