Welcome to the Pitkin County bear-port
August 30, 2007
ASPEN Bears have been foraging at the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport, where until recently the food selection was abundant.State Division of Wildlife officials set a trap in a secured area of the airport earlier this week in hopes of catching the bruins. They also are watching the operators of airport services to ensure that they comply with the county ordinance that mandates bearproof trash containers. Pitkin County, which owns the airport, last week upped the fines for those who don’t secure their trash in proper bearproof containers. First-time offenders will pay $350, the second offense costs $500, and a third citation comes with a penalty of $1,000.The culprits at the airport appear to be operators of the rental car companies. They use a common wash facility at the east end of the runway and apparently their trash bins weren’t in compliance, officials said.
But after a visit from DOW officials and the county’s code enforcement officer, workers at the airport are cleaning up their act.”They still haven’t rectified their trash,” said Aspen District Wildlife Manager Kevin Wright, who was at the airport surveying the area earlier this week. Dumpster lids weren’t latched and trash was blowing around. “The trash is everywhere. I told them they had to pick it up every day.”As a result, bears have been jumping the fence and lumbering around the tarmac.”Bears are getting scared on the runway,” Wright said. “I can’t have a Gulfstream or a commercial airliner slamming into a bear.” Carrington Brown, Pitkin County’s code enforcement officer, said he spoke with the car rental representatives on Wednesday, the same day Wright was there, also giving them a lecture on the importance of securing trash containers.
Brown elected not to cite the operators because they assured him they would take care of the problem immediately.”I would have written them up but we’re not trying to punish them, we’re trying to educate them,” Brown said, adding that the trash bin would “suffice for now.” “They assured me they will correct it. … When they say they are on it, I give them a couple of days to do it.”Wright said there are other Dumpsters on site that are troublesome, like one stationed near the commercial entrance. The space between the lids on top of the Dumpster is wide enough to get his arm through, Wright said.”The trash companies are trying to say they are compliant but it’s a joke,” he said, adding that the county is doing what it can to comply but it’s the contractors at the airport who are in noncompliance.
“The rental car companies are causing a significant and important human safety issue,” Wright said. “The bears are going to pay the price one way or another.”DOW spokesman Randy Hampton said it’s unknown if the bears are repeat offenders, in which case they would be euthanized. He won’t know until they are caught to see if they have been tagged.”There are three different bears there based on the hair color in the fence,” Hampton said.Brown said he will be monitoring the situation closely and the law will apply evenly.”We’ll be back there checking,” he said. “They want to do the right thing. I adamantly hold the county just as accountable as any citizen.”Carolyn Sackariason’s e-mail address is email@example.com