Work at the Bells resumes |

Work at the Bells resumes

Jeremy Heiman

Visitors to the Maroon Bells this summer will continue to see construction work at the popular scenic attraction, as work on new amenities continues.

A new earth-covered bus shelter under construction at Maroon Lake is scheduled for completion this fall.

Under construction since last year, the new Forest Service building will feature state-of-the-art technology for energy generation. It will shelter visitors waiting for a bus back to Aspen, and will house 15 composting toilets. The building will replace a cinder-block bus shelter destroyed by an avalanche in March 1995 and five wooden outhouses dating from the early 1960s.

Electricity for the building will be primarily supplied by a generator operating on water pressure. Rich Doak, Forest Service recreation staff officer for the Aspen Ranger District, said electricity will be produced by a generator about the size of an automobile alternator. A propeller on the device is spun by a jet of water pressurized as water is piped several hundred feet downhill from a mountain spring.

Power from this so-called micro-hydro plant is to be supplemented by photovoltaic (solar electric) panels and a small wind turbine. Doak said the wind generator will have a propeller diameter of about five feet, and will be concealed in a grove of aspens, protruding just above the trees to catch the wind.

The whole building will be earth sheltered to reduce the potential for damage from avalanches and to reduce the visual impact. But it’s not completely avalanche-proof. “We prefer to call it avalanche resistant,” Doak said. He noted that the previous building had been destroyed by a slide that took out 30-year-old trees, which illustrates both the unpredictability and the power of avalanches.

In the years since the old shelter was knocked down, Doak said, visitors to Maroon Lake have had to make do with a flimsy picnic shelter. On rainy days tourists sometimes have huddled in the toilets for shelter. “Quite honestly, people haven’t had a good alternative for four years,” he said.

In addition, trail work at Maroon Lake started last summer, will continue this year. Volunteer workers organized by Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers will be finishing the reconstruction of the Scenic Loop Trail. They will also work on the Maroon Creek Trail, which starts at Maroon Lake and extends downvalley to the East Maroon Trail, and on the West Maroon Trail, near the trailhead parking lot. Volunteers will be working the weekend of July 10 and 11.

The bus shelter will be joined in 2002 by another earth-sheltered building which will house a visitor center and function as a shelter for trail users.

The road to Maroon Lake is expected to be open by Memorial Day weekend. The Roaring Fork Transit Agency will begin running buses to Maroon Lake on June 19. Buses will run from the Rubey Park bus terminal in Aspen out to the lake every 20 to 30 minutes, starting at 9 a.m. The last bus will head for the lake at 4:30 p.m. and the last bus will leave the lake at 5 p.m.

To volunteer for these projects, or for reseeding and tree-planting work in the Maroon Lake area, contact Doak at the Aspen Ranger District, 925-3445; or the Roaring Fork Volunteers at 927-8241.

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