Snowmass Town Council discusses COVID-19 response, wildlife management, JAS Labor Day Experience at work session | AspenTimes.com
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Snowmass Town Council discusses COVID-19 response, wildlife management, JAS Labor Day Experience at work session

Snowmass Village seen from Brush Creek Road in January 2019.
File photo/Snowmass Sun

At a virtual work session April 13, Snowmass Town Council discussed and gave direction to town staff on a handful of topics, including the town’s COVID-19 response, wildlife management of area bears, elk and mountain lions, and Jazz Aspen Snowmass’ request to explore Buttermilk as a future venue option for its Labor Day Experience festival. Here’s the recap:

SNOWMASS COVID-19 RESPONSE

At a 3 p.m. Pitkin County Board of Health special meeting April 13, the board issued an advisory recommending residents wear masks in essential businesses and other areas where it’s harder to practice social distancing.

A few hours later, Markey Butler, county public health board chair and Snowmass mayor, posed to council and town staff the question of how the village should ensure all residents have access to cloth face masks and what more it can do to support the community.

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“The question becomes one of if we as a town need to put some dollars toward this because I think of those who are no longer working and $3 is $3 and $5 is $5,” Butler said.

After some discussion around potentially purchasing masks for village residents from others in the Roaring Fork Valley who are making them, council decided to keep an eye on essential businesses this week to see how many people were wearing masks, indicating to staff and council members what the need may be. Town Council plans to continue its mask discussion at a regular meeting in the near future.

Council also encouraged residents to look at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more information on face masks, including how to make your own, and to check out the Roaring Fork Swap Facebook page, where Councilwoman Alyssa Shenk said people are selling homemade masks at reasonable prices.

Beyond helping locals get cloth masks, council also asked town staff to prepare an emergency ordinance for its April 20 regular meeting that would appropriate more funds for COVID-19 relief.

Town Council members also wanted staff to gather data on how the $100,000 the town’s contributed so far to Pitkin County’s COVID-19 relief fund has been utilized and how many Snowmass Village residents have applied for the relief funds.

“I think we need more money to help the community,” Councilman Tom Goode said. “I think we need to keep the community as number one right now, whatever that takes.”

CPW BRIEFS COUNCIL ON BEAR, ELK AND MOUNTAIN LION MANAGEMENT

Snowmass police are going to work more closely with Colorado Parks and Wildlife this summer to handle area black bears that exhibit bad behavior.

As explained to Town Council April 13, Police Chief Brian Olson said a “bad bear” is one that gets habituated to foraging for human food, breaking into homes, cars and digging through trash to find it, potentially putting people in danger.

Olson said Snowmass got “beat up pretty bad” with bears breaking into homes last year, and that dealing with bad bears opens up the opportunity for “good bears,” or those who practice natural foraging habits, to flourish.

“Snowmass is not changing a thing really, all of our officers participate in bear hazing and trying to move bears along when they’re not behaving,” Olson said. “We are going to reach out more to parks and wildlife just to supplement what we do and make sure we have enough staff.”

Snowmass police are also expanding their own wildlife management outreach this year, with plans to get more permanent messaging on ways property managers, visitors, part-time and full-time residents can help keep bears from accessing human food.

Last week, a bad bear broke into a village home and ate a loaf of bread. Snowmass police were able to get it out of the home and notified CPW, which trapped the bear and euthanized it.

“The bear that we caught a couple of days ago came out of hibernation and the first thing he did was went and broke into two houses,” Tesch said. “We’re still seeing conflicts on the rise, so hopefully if we’re more proactive in our response and get out there sooner we can eliminate some of these habituated problem bears that in the long run will lessen our conflicts all around.”

At the April 13 work session, Kurtis Tesch, district wildlife manager with CPW for the Aspen-Snowmass area, echoed Olson’s sentiments on needing to get a better handle on the area’s problem black bears.

That’s why he said CPW is pursuing a three-year bear management plan for the upper Roaring Fork Valley.

CPW hopes to host a bear summit later this year to discuss the proposed bear management plan and collaborate with local municipalities, counties and U.S. Forest Service officials, but it may not come to fruition until next year due to the COVID-19 crisis.

“We want to all get on the same page of how we’re managing bears in the area,” Tesch said. “The main focus will be to eliminate the conflicts that we’re having and to increase our communication with each other to work more together as a team.”

Tesch also updated council on CPW’s six-year population study of the area’s Avalanche Creek elk herd, noting that 40 pregnant females were captured and collared this year to help with research and tracking.

“We’re into our second year of a six-year study, everything is going as well as expected but there’s no real data to share at this point but hopefully we’ll get some really good results,” Tesch said.

CPW is also launching a new statewide mountain lion management plan, Tesch said, which creates larger hunting boundaries and hopefully helps to stabilize the mountain lion population.

Tesch does not anticipate the change will have a significant impact on Snowmass Village or bring a large influx of hunters to the area.

JAS TO EXPLORE BUTTERMILK AS 2021 LABOR DAY EXPERIENCE VENUE

Snowmass Town Council members Monday expressed consensus on allowing Jazz Aspen Snowmass to explore the base of Buttermilk Ski Area as a potential 2021 Labor Day Experience venue. Read the full story HERE.


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