Some fishing opportunities on the Roaring Fork River may come as a surprise to even the most devoted local anglers. It's also possible they'll come as a surprise to owners of homes perched above an enticing stretch of water.
Paul Holsinger, land officer with the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails program, is slowly making his way upriver, literally and figuratively, to nail down every fishing easement and river access point held by the county. He began at the county line in Basalt.
While open-space officials are well aware of what the program has acquired in its 27-year history, less well known are the various bits and pieces acquired by local government through land-use actions that go back decades. These are easements secured through development approvals, platted and then forgotten.
In some cases, easements were later extinguished, which is why Holsinger is checking them one by one as time permits, and then notifying the affected property owner or owners when an easement is confirmed.
"We're going through them piece by piece, because you never know," he said.
There is fishing along the river through the Roaring Fork Club in Basalt, for example. In addition, two parking spots for anglers at the clubhouse next to Highway 82 are part of the golf club's development approval, Holsinger noted.
At the upper end of the Roaring Fork Club, at the Wingo pedestrian bridge, fishing easements continue upriver to the boat launch off Highway 82, even though there are a couple of private properties between the highway and the river in that stretch.
The easements, Holsinger cautioned, don't mean anglers can tromp across someone's back yard. The defined boundaries of fishing easements vary, and sometimes public access is only available to those wading within the river itself.
"Fishing easements don't grant access through private property," he said. "If you're within the water way with any of these fishing easements, you're going to be safe."
Upriver from the boat launch, the river flows through the Lazy Glen Mobile Home Park, where there is a continuous easement on the south side of the river to the upper end of Lazy Glen, Holsinger said. The access is from the Highway 82 bridge over the river at the lower end of the subdivision; the Lazy Glen homeowners association has been notified of the easement's existence, he said.
Holsinger is continuing to plug away at easements mapped along the Roaring Fork in Snowmass Canyon and beyond. Once he has finished charting every easement on the river, a similar endeavor on Snowmass and Capitol creeks will be next, he said.
Undetermined is how open space officials will let the public know about river access where it exists.
"We don't want to put up a ton of signs to ruin the experience of being in the river," Holsinger said.