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Hanging Lake reservations reopening Monday, first hikes June 25

Jamie Werner, White River National Forest stewardship coordinator, addresses members of the media during Wednesday's press conference at the Hanging Lake Rest Area.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Get those hiking shoes ready, because a trail to Hanging Lake is on track to reopen much sooner than first anticipated after last summer’s devastating flooding and debris flows in Glenwood Canyon.

Online reservations are set to open at visitglenwood.com at 10 a.m. Monday, and the first available day to hike the trail under the permit reservation system is June 25.

The announcement was made at a Wednesday morning press conference at the Hanging Lake Rest Area hosted by the White River National Forest, the National Forest Foundation, the city of Glenwood Springs and the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.

Leanne Veldhuis, Eagle-Holy Cross District Ranger for the White River National Forest, addresses members of the media during Wednesday's press conference at the Hanging Lake Rest Area.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

“This is much earlier than we thought we were going to be able to open this trail, thanks to great work by the construction crew and the Forest Service,” said Lisa Langer, director of tourism for Visit Glenwood.

“To be able to open the reservations and have people hike as early as June 25 is just really remarkable, considering what we had to deal with last summer with the debris flows,” she said.

Access to Hanging Lake has been closed since late July 2021, when record rainfall triggered massive flooding and debris flows that severely damaged Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon, closing it for three weeks, and also washing out parts of the Hanging Lake trail. The unique travertine lake itself was muddy for a period of time, but by fall had returned to its natural state.

The Hanging Lake Trail has been closed since late July 2021 when massive mud and debris flows triggered by heavy rains over the 2020 Grizzly Creek burn scar severely damaged parts of the trail infrastructure.
National Forest Foundation/courtesy photo

The Forest Service contracted with Summit to Sea trail builders, which began work in late April to repair and replace two bridges that were washed out and to rebuild a temporary, primitive trail up the roughly 1.2 miles to Hanging Lake, said Leanne Veldhuis, Eagle-Holy Cross District Ranger for the WRNF.

Crews made speedy progress to secure bridge one back into place before the spring runoff peak, and to remove the old bridge two, which had been completely washed downstream in Deadhorse Creek. They are now in the process of building a new bridge in that location, Veldhuis said.

The remainder of the five bridges were not severely damaged, but crews are working to build a primitive trail through some of the debris flow areas to provide a walkable access to the lake, she said.

“We’ve been really impressed with the work that’s been done to date,” she said.

Long term, the National Forest Foundation expects to invest more than $3 million over the next three years to build a new, more resilient permanent trail with additional improvements, interpretive signage and restoration of the ecology along the trail that was damaged by the mudslides and by the 2020 Grizzly Creek Fire, said Jamie Werner, stewardship coordinator between the WRNF and the National Forest Foundation.

Design work for that larger project is to begin later this summer, she said.

“The goal with the temporary trail work is to open the trail to safe public access,” Werner said. “We will still be keeping an eye on the weather through the summer and potentially instigating some closures for dangerous weather events.

“The long-term plan for that permanent trail is to be looking at it from a holistic perspective … the alignment, the materials, the user experience … all those things to make this trail as sturdy and resilient and sustainable as possible,” she said.

The larger project includes funding from a $2.28 million Great Outdoors Colorado Community Impact Grant that was awarded last year, along with the city of Glenwood Springs, the Forest Service, the Glenwood Canyon Restoration Alliance and Hanging Lake visitors who donated their canceled permit reservation fees from last summer back to the rebuilding effort, Werner said.

Glenwood Springs Mayor Pro-Tem Charlie Willman also spoke at the Wednesday opening announcement.

“We heard clearly over this past year how important Hanging Lake is to Colorado, and we know how important it is to our local community, its character and its economic vibrancy,” Willman said. “We’re so grateful to those who made this happen, and it’s going to be exciting to have it accessible this summer much sooner than anyone anticipated.”

Reservations to hike to Hanging Lake are $12 per person, with the exception of small children who can be carried the entire way. A permit includes parking at the rest area.

There is a limit of 615 visitors per day in accordance with the Forest Service’s management plan that was implemented in 2019. Up until then, the area saw as many as 1,800 hikers on peak summer days, Langer said, resulting in overcrowding at the parking area and illegal parking along the Interstate 70 on/off ramps and leading to the development of the management plan.

One requirement when the new reservation system was implemented was that hikers had to use a shuttle service between Glenwood Springs and the Hanging Lake trailhead.

The shuttle, operated under contract by H2O Ventures of Glenwood Springs, which also handles reservations, was in place in 2019. It has since been suspended, at first due to pandemic restrictions in 2020, and since the Grizzly Creek Fire due to the potential for evacuations during flood events on the fire burn scar.

The shuttle will remain suspended this year, as trail managers would prefer that people have quick access to their personal vehicles in case of a flash flood watch or warning and the potential for an evacuation order during this summer’s monsoonal rains.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

Pro works to make the game of golf accessible for all ages

Steve VanDyke takes in the picturesque scenery at River Valley Ranch in Carbondale, where he has been director of golf since 2019.
John Stroud/Post Independent

Bringing the game of golf to the community, and particularly making it accessible to young players, is a major focus for Steve VanDyke as director of golf at Carbondale’s River Valley Ranch.

That commitment helped earn VanDyke the Colorado PGA-West Golf Professional of the Year and Youth Player Development awards at the organization’s spring meeting in Grand Junction last month.

“Steve has been a real stalwart on the Western Slope golf scene and is very deserving of these awards,” Chapter President Luke Brosterhous said in announcing this year’s awards. “His dedication to the game is evident daily.”

It’s been a long but not awfully winding road for VanDyke to land where he is today.

After playing golf in high school in rural Nebraska with his father as coach, VanDyke gave it a go at the collegiate level, playing his freshman year at Nebraska Wesleyan University. But he decided early on that he eventually wanted to become a club pro.

He passed his Player Ability Test his sophomore year, which meant he lost his amateur status as a player and could no longer compete at that level.

After completing college, without deviating from that career path, he headed to western Colorado in 2000, where he immediately went to work as an assistant pro and then, from 2009 to 2019, as head pro at the private Aspen Glen Golf Club outside Carbondale.

The public River Valley Ranch course underwent an ownership change in 2019, and the golf course and restaurant operations were leased out to longtime local and avid golfer Red Cunningham and his wife, Julie.

The Cunninghams asked VanDyke to come on as director of golf; an opportunity he jumped at, since a public course opens up more opportunities to introduce the sport to a broader audience.

So what exactly does a golf pro do?

“It’s funny,” VanDyke said. “I think there’s a perception out there when people ask you what you do, and you say, ‘Well, I’m a golf professional.’ And they’re like, ‘Oh, do you know Tiger Woods? Or do you play on TV?’

“And I tell them, ‘No, I’m a club pro.’”

During his days as an assistant pro at Aspen Glen, it wasn’t a full-time job, so the Glenwood Springs resident spent his winters working as a lift operator at Sunlight Mountain Ski Resort, and in the ski shop in downtown Glenwood.

But golf course management remained his first choice when it came to jobs, especially after he married and started a family with his wife, Jennifer.

“I love to play and I love to compete, but my focus is on running a business, essentially,” VanDyke said of the all-encompassing golf course management side of the job.

He does give lessons and still finds time to play quite a bit of golf, but the job also involves managing the staff, overseeing golf operations, setting the pricing, keeping track of the finances, scheduling and coordinating tournaments and — very near and dear to his heart — running the junior golf programs.

Growing up golf

Part of his motivation in introducing the game to youth and developing young players has been his own daughters, Sophia, 10, and Thea, 12.

“Both Jennifer and I grew up with golf in our family, and so we understand the benefits — socially, physically and mentally — to learning golf at a young age,” VanDyke said. “It hasn’t been something that we’ve ever really pushed them hard into, it just kind of organically became something we do as a family.

“My dad was a high school golf coach for 35 years, so I think that runs in my blood a little bit.”

Youth golf has been strong in the Roaring Fork Valley for a long time, in part because of programs like Aspen Junior Golf and the various programs offered at the area golf courses.

Golf also experienced a resurgence across the age spectrum during the pandemic, when it became one of the few small-group outdoor activities that people could do together while socially distancing.

“I’d say the state of golf, and especially youth golf, is exceptionally good right now,” VanDyke said.

River Valley Ranch, for one, has a special youth pass for golfers age 19 and under that comes out to $5 per round, with special incentives to get families out on the golf course together.

RVR’s First Tee Program beginning in June is geared toward junior golfers ages 10 and under, and a series of Drive, Chip and Putt lessons are offered for ages 7-15.

Those programs have helped feed the local high school golf teams, hosted at Glenwood Springs High School for the girls golf season in the spring, and at Basalt High School for boys during the fall season.

Both teams take players from multiple Roaring Fork District high schools and area private schools. RVR is the home course for both programs.

“To get kids into the game early, and to the community as a whole, is so important and helps grow the game,” GSHS girls coach Lori West said, crediting VanDyke for the opportunities he has provided as a club pro.

“It’s not only the physical development and mental aspects of the game,” she said. “Golf sort of mimics what happens in the world. You have a lot of ups and downs, and when you hit the ball into the sand or the water, you have to figure out how to deal with that.”

It’s also a way to bring families closer together, and any number of business deals have been made on the golf course between colleagues, West added.

Playing the game

Now 44, VanDyke admits a part of him wishes he would have put a little more effort into his playing abilities in college.

But, after making it to state as a high school golfer two of his four years at Crete High School, he said something was missing when he got to college.

“I came from a very small high school, with my dad as my golf coach. Our practices were very structured, and we practiced and played as a team,” he said. “Then, in college, it was practice on your own, play on your own and report your own scores, so there wasn’t that team dynamic. So it lost some of the luster for me, because what I really enjoyed was just being out there with my teammates.”

These days, in addition to playing in the area pro-am events, he takes in some of the bigger section events on the Front Range as well as the Colorado PGA-West events on the Western Slope.

“This is the start of our busy season at the golf course, so I don’t travel around to play a lot of tournaments, just because I need to keep my operation going here.

“I do still enjoy playing and competing, and I would like to work on my game a little bit more. That’s the nice thing about golf is you can always get better at some facet of the game no matter if you’re a golf professional or a never-ever.

“But maybe the senior (PGA) tour one day, who knows?”

The Golf Pro of the Year and Youth Development awards were a big honor, VanDyke said.

“There are a lot of great professionals on the West Slope who are just as deserving, so just to be nominated was an honor,” he said.

And what’s not to like about running a golf course?

“Just coming to the golf course every day, especially in a setting like RVR or anywhere in the Roaring Fork Valley, makes it worthwhile,” VanDyke said, as a deer just happened up out of the Crystal River and across the 18th fairway.

“If you can’t be in a good mood with that, you probably should make a change, because it doesn’t get much better,” he said. “And then getting kids into the game and to see the joy that they get from being outside having fun, that’s pretty special.”

River Valley Ranch Director of Golf Steve VanDyke takes a swing from the back tee box on the No. 1 hole on a perfect spring morning.
John Stroud/Post Independent

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

On the Fly: We’ll never be as good as our equipment

Photo of skiing and fishing legend Andy Mill courtesy of Silver Kings TV

Ski legend Andy Mill popped in the shop recently, and something he said really stuck with us: “Nowadays, we’ll never be as good as our equipment.”

Andy literally wrote the book on tarpon fishing (“A Passion for Tarpon,” Wild River Press), and this is so true, especially now. He’s a fixture on the Keys tournament circuit as well as the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork, and is one of the most diverse anglers we have the pleasure of knowing here.

Fresh and saltwater fly gear is simply spectacular these days, whether we’re talking reels, rods, fly lines, waders, you name it. Rod technology is way ahead of what used to be available, and even introductory rods have excellent action compared to yesteryear’s offerings. (Bamboo trout rods are still around and preferred by many who grew up with them, though.) The industry has come up with fly lines that float like a cork, sink like a stone, and everything in between. Modern reels have silky-smooth drags and can take much more abuse, and breathable waders are comfortable and fit you like a glove compared to older versions. Waders designed by and made for women are one of the best breakthroughs lately, as many women are (and always have been) embracing this sport.

Fly design has become an industry of its own, although many anglers still fish classic patterns that have been available for decades. Many of the flies these days are ultra-realistic, but many anglers still prefer the impressionistic ones. Many local guides are now signature fresh and salt fly tyers for brands like Umpqua, Solitude and Montana Fly Co. Leader and tippet is now much more consistent and diverse, although many old-school anglers still build out their own.

Despite the latest and greatest gear, you still need to practice, learn and listen to become the best angler you can be. We all know that fisherman decked out with all the latest toys but still doesn’t know what fly to tie on, as well as the trout bum with a 20-year-old rod and reel that plucks fish out of every little spot they cast to. New technology makes our lives easier, but becoming an accomplished angler still takes patience and practice, just like in the old days. Some things will never change, thank goodness.

This report is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374 or TaylorCreek.com.

Williams, Swanson top runners in New Castle’s Hogback Hustle 5K on Saturday

Runners take off at the start of the annual Hogback Hustle 5K in New Castle on Saturday morning.
photo courtesy Kelley Cox/New Castle Recreation Department

The annual Hogback Hustle 5K Run hit the streets of New Castle on Saturday morning, with 44 runners and walkers participating amid overcast skies and cool temperatures.

With the race date moved up from its usual early July slot, the traditional course remained the same as runners started near the New Castle City Market and made the long uphill trek to Castle Valley, then back downhill to a finish at Burning Mountain Park on Main Street.

Ezra Williams claimed the overall race title with a time of 21 minutes, 17 seconds. Glenwood Springs High School math teacher Anne Swanson took the women’s crown and was second place overall in 24:11. Nick Croissant placed third, coming to the finish line in 24:19.

A couple of standouts in the over 60 age category, Bob Dubois of New Castle and Brad Palmer of Carbondale, were next in line overall with times of 24:45 and 25:42. New Castle’s Angela Dunn was sixth overall and second among the ladies at 25:47, with Kevin Parker of Riverside Middle School right behind at 26:10.

Rounding out the top-10 finishers were Owen Evans (26:11), Johnny Utah (26:15) and Amanda Welk (26:36).

The race served as a benefit for the New Castle Recreation Department.

The caddis are coming

A strong caddis hatch.
Taylor Creek Fly Shops

The lower Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers are starting to make the switch from blue winged olives to caddis hatches. The first few days of the hatch are always interesting; it takes the fish a minute to remember what the heck caddis are. They are starting to recall now, and are looking up and eating adults after weeks of snacking on caddis larvae.

Last week’s refusals on big dry flies will turn in to this week’s ferocious takedowns. Running double dries is a deadly combination, and if you have trouble with one fish on the end of your line, try fighting two at once. The Roaring Fork is absolutely crawling with caddis larvae, and it’s time for caddis to start their annual rituals of hatching, mating, laying eggs and dying. Sex and death, as John Geirach says.

There are a few techniques that are crucial to your fishing time, starting with having plenty of floatant. Your line, leader, tippet and fly must float well, or you will be missing fish all day. Sunken dry flies usually don’t cut it with finicky trout, and caddis fishing requires high and dry presentations on your part. Imparting motion to your dry flies from the second they light upon the water until you go to recast is practically a must. Real caddis don’t just sit there and wait to get eaten, they are struggling to launch or at least make it to shore before trouble comes in the form of a hungry fish. Move them, skate them and “bump” them all the way through your drift.

Lastly, across and downstream casts make this much easier to do on your part. This technique has trickled into most of my dry fly fishing, whether it’s caddis, blue wings, pale morning duns, green drakes and even midges. Repositioning or twitching your flies is much easier when they’re downstream versus upstream. Be sure to get on the water on our upcoming hot and bright days, then get back to the water at dusk to catch the egg layer caddis frenzy. It’s time — are you ready?

This report is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374 or TaylorCreek.com.

On the Fly: The caddis are coming

The lower Roaring Fork and Colorado Rivers are starting to make the switch from blue-winged olives to caddis hatches. The first few days of the hatch are always interesting; it takes the fish a minute to remember what the heck caddis are. They are starting to recall now, and are looking up and eating adults after weeks of snacking on caddis larvae.

The caddis hatch is on at local rivers, which means for stellar fishing conditions.
Courtesy of Taylor Creek Fly Shops

Last week’s refusals on big dry flies will turn in to this week’s ferocious takedowns. Running double dries is a deadly combination, and if you have trouble with one fish on the end of your line, try fighting two at once! The Roaring Fork is absolutely crawling with caddis larvae, and it’s time for caddis to start their annual rituals of hatching, mating, laying eggs and dying. Sex and death, as John Geirach says.

There are a few techniques that are crucial to your fishing time, starting with having plenty of floatant. Your line, leader, tippet and fly must float well or you will be missing fish all day. Sunken dry flies usually don’t cut it with finicky trout, and caddis fishing requires high and dry presentations on your part. Imparting motion to your dry flies from the second they light upon the water until you go to recast is practically a must. Real caddis don’t just sit there and wait to get eaten, they are struggling to launch or at least make it to shore before trouble comes in the form of a hungry fish. Move them, skate them and “bump” them all the way through your drift.

Lastly, across and downstream casts make this much easier to do on your part. This technique has trickled into most of my dry fly fishing, whether it’s caddis, blue wings, pale morning duns, green drakes and even midges. Repositioning or twitching your flies is much easier when they’re downstream versus upstream. Be sure to get on the water on our upcoming hot and bright days, then get back to the water at dusk to catch the egg layer caddis frenzy. It’s time, are you ready?

This report is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374 or TaylorCreek.com.

Bicycle commuting one way to honor the eco-ethics of Earth Day, every day in Garfield County

City of Glenwood Springs employee Linda DuPriest heads home on her bike after a day of work.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

They’re out there.

Maybe not every single day, but on as many days as time and the weather allows, bicycle commuters are on the paved paths and dirt trails of Glenwood Springs.

It has a lot to do with doing what they can to lessen their carbon footprint, not just on Earth Day but as often as possible year round.

There are fringe benefits, too.

“I ride every day, or at least every day that I don’t have a car errand that I need to run,” said Watkins Fulk-Gray, one of several city of Glenwood Springs workers who bike to work on a regular basis.

He regularly commutes by bike from his house near 27th Street to City Hall.

“I do it to help reduce carbon emissions, but also because I’m kind of on the road rage side of things when I’m driving,” Fulk-Gray admitted. “I also just feel like I have more energy after riding to work … and, honestly, it’s just as fast to bike around Glenwood as it is to drive.”

The bike-to-work movement gathered some major momentum in Glenwood Springs during the late summer and fall of 2017 when the Grand Avenue Bridge construction detour was in place.

While interest faded some after the new bridge was completed, it seemed to pick up again during the pandemic.

And, with the increasing popularity of electric-pedal-assist, or e-bikes, bicycle commuting around town or even between towns in the Roaring Fork Valley has become a culture all its own.

Planning pathways

A group of city of Glenwood Springs workers, including Linda DuPriest, right, and Watkins Fulk-Gray, head out from City Hall with their bikes after work.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

City of Glenwood Springs transit planner Linda DuPriest said she has been commuting to work by bike since the 1980s.

“In the different cities where I’ve lived and worked, I did it for exercise and just because it made sense to me,” she said. “It just feels right, and especially since I have been working to plan bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure for 25 or 30 years now.”

Glenwood Springs has what DuPriest calls a “good skeleton” for bicycle commuting, with the Rio Grande Trail running through the middle of town and good connections on the Midland Avenue side of the Roaring Fork River and out to West Glenwood.

“But we also do have some critical safety gaps in our bike network that we’re working on,” she said. “We acknowledge that those things sometimes will discourage people.”

DuPriest identifies three different types of people when it comes to bike commuting.

There are the “strong and fearless” who will commute through any kinds of conditions, no matter what.

There are the “no way, no how” types who will likely never give it a try.

“And then you have the 50% or 60% in the middle — those are the ones that we would like to convert,” DuPriest said.

Benefits of bikes

Two other Glenwood Springs Community Development Department workers, Emery Ellingson and Carlos Peugnet, are also regular bicycle commuters.

Ellingson rides the Rio Grande all the way to Glenwood from his home in Carbondale at least once or twice a week, he said.

“It’s just a really good start to your day, and it’s a beautiful ride,” he said. “I like having that separation between the time when I’m at work, and when I’m at home. It does take more time, but I’ve found that separation is important for me. I just feel more relaxed when I get to work and again when I get back home.”

Peugnet rides either his e-bike or his scooter to City Hall from his home in West Glenwood most days.

“I am concerned about our carbon footprint,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if we have 6 inches of snow on the path, I have a fat bike that is designed just for that.”

Peugnet agreed he feels more energized at the beginning and end of the day when he bikes in to work.

“You have the opportunity to look around and really enjoy the beautiful place that we live in, and it costs me nothing compared to my truck, which gets about 12-13 miles per gallon,” he said.

On the days he does decide to ride his scooter, he’s getting something around 130 miles per gallon.

“So, yeah, I’m conscious about the environment, but I’m also conscious about my wallet and not spending so much money on gas,” he said.

Several Colorado Mountain College employees also bike to work frequently. Among them are Jeffrey Buchman, who rides from Park West in south Glenwood to the CMC Central Services building downtown.

“As someone who is not a fan of mornings, bike commuting gives me the opportunity to get a bit of exercise before starting work, which helps me wake up before I get to the office,” Buchman said. “As an accountant, I also appreciate the money-saving aspect and reducing the wear on my car.”

Then there’s the reality of climate change that’s right before our eyes with decreasing winter snowpack, year-round wildfires and smoke-filled skies in the summer, he said.

“Bike commuting is an easy way to reduce your carbon footprint without drastically changing your routine, and thanks to the great bike trails available my commute on a bike is not noticeably longer than it takes to drive,” Buchman said.

Seth Anderson works with the Isaacson School at CMC’s Spring Valley campus. He lives about 4.5 miles from campus in Spring Valley, and said he rides his bike to campus most days.

“It’s the best commute in the world,” he said. “I get an hour a day to look at our beautiful Mount Sopris, herds of prancing deer and lumbering elks, and just to be outside and unplugged.

“My commute is likely the biggest savior of my mental health, and it’s not bad for my physical health, either.”

Though he admits it would be hard to convince most people who work at the campus but live on the valley floor to commute by bike, Anderson said he hopes to set a good example for his 5-year-old daughter.

“It’s important to help her understand how small change has a big impact, and that it can be quite a bit of fun at the same time,” he said.

Peugnet has a similar message when it comes to encouraging others to give bike commuting a try.

“You don’t have to be a world class athlete to get up on a bike and contribute,” he said, noting that a coworker was so impressed with his scooter that she bought one just like his.

“Now she’ll be contributing to reducing that carbon footprint,” Peugnet said. “And it just feels good to know you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy a bike.”

Colorado and National Bike to Work Day will be celebrated on June 22, with special events along the Rio Grande Trail and other points around Glenwood Springs and other valley towns sponsored by Glenwood Bicycle Advocates and Clean Energy Economy for the Region.

But that doesn’t mean you should wait until then to give biking to work a try.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

Group wants recreation brought under control at Maroon Bells before area is loved to death

Maroon Lake reflects clouds hanging over the Maroon Bells on July 22, 2021.
Scott Condon/The Aspen Times

After years of applying temporary fixes to try to ease overcrowding at the Maroon Bells Scenic Area, a consortium of local caretakers is determined to come up with a comprehensive plan for management.

Pitkin County is teaming with the city of Aspen, U.S. Forest Service, Roaring Fork Transportation Authority and Aspen Chamber Resort Association to hire the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Volpe National Transportation Systems Center to complete a management plan.

Various management tools have been put in place in recent years to manage the hordes and protect the natural resources near the Maroon Bells. A reservation system was implemented during the pandemic for shuttles traveling between the Aspen Highlands base area and Maroon Lake. Reservations are also needed to park. Traffic has been limited on Maroon Creek Road for more than 40 years.

More restrictions are already in the works. The Aspen-Sopris Ranger District wants to implement a fee and reservation system for backpackers on the popular Four Pass Loop and other hotspots in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. The scenic area is the gateway to the wilderness. A proposal to manage e-bike traveling on Maroon Creek Road will be unveiled later this month.

But a comprehensive plan is needed rather than a piecemeal approach, Brian Pettet, Pitkin County director of public works, told the county commissioners last week.

“That area is seeing unprecedented use these days, and we need to reconsider how we’re allowing people to access the Bells and what they’re doing once they’re there,” Pettet said at Wednesday’s BOCC meeting.

The study area will start at the roundabout on Highway 82 and include the length of Maroon Creek Road. The Maroon Bells Scenic Area’s boundaries are loosely defined by the Forest Service. It includes the “hardened areas” around Maroon Lake, according to spokesman David Boyd. That includes parking lots, trails, picnic areas and campgrounds.

“That area is seeing unprecedented use these days and we need to reconsider how we’re allowing people to access the Bells and what they’re doing once they’re there.” — Brian Pettet, Pitkin County

Pettet told the commissioners the study would include some of the wilderness terrain in the backcountry beyond Maroon Lake, potentially including the trails to West Maroon Pass to the south and Buckskin Pass to the north.

The Volpe Center was hired because of its expertise in multi-model transportation. The agency, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was formed in 1970 and bills itself as a leader in transportation systems, analysis, technology and innovation.

The center’s outline for its Maroon Bells project said it will come up a plan that will “address the impacts of increasing visitation by identifying sustainable levels of access to the Maroon Bells Scenic Area while accounting for local economic and other community impacts.”

Peggy Jo Trish helps visitors at Maroon Bells Lake in July 2021.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

It will collect and analyze data on past, current and projected recreation uses of the area. It will look at everything from hiking, mountaineering, backpacking, biking, camping, fishing, hunting, photography, environmental education and special events.

“Visitation to the Maroon Bells Scenic Area has increased steadily over the past 10 years with no decrease in visitation likely forthcoming,” the project outline said. “Left unmanaged, and as experienced in recent years, increased visitation can degrade natural resources and the environment, health and safety, and visitor experience.”

Volpe’s plan is supposed to be ready by December 2023. It will cost $225,000, with the members of the consortium splitting up the expense.

A group of e-bikers stops in the middle of Maroon Creek Road on the way to the Maroon Bells day use area last summer. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

In the nearer term, the county commissioners want an assessment of how the shuttle and parking reservation system is operating. Reservations were opened for the summer on April 11 and quickly snatched up.

“It you wanted to visit the Maroon Bells (Scenic Area) this summer, as we’re discovering, it’s hard,” commissioner Greg Poschman said. “It’s hard to get a bus. It’s hard to get parking. It’s hard to get there.”

Commissioner Patti Clapper said she would like analysis to see if rumors that hotel concierges are reserving large blocks of reservations are true.

Two Forest Service officials provided The Aspen Times with different and contradictory answers last summer when asked whether or not operators of tourist accommodations were hogging the reservations for their guests to the detriment of individuals. Pettet told the commissioners he would try to get an assessment of how the reservation system is working.

scondon@aspentimes.com

On the Fly: Big changes in the coming weeks

Ready for the big change-up? After a winter of squinting at your midge box, you can start to think about spring bugs like blue-winged olives and caddis. Down on the middle-to-lower Roaring Fork and Colorado River, BWOs have been strong for a few weeks now, and the caddis will be starting up next week, as well. High and bright sun in the forecast brings the best caddis hatches; cloudy days yield better mayfly hatches like springtime BWOs.

Twilight is an excellent time to fish caddis if you have to work all day, as the females return to the water to oviposit (lay eggs). We will be in the early stages of good caddis fishing next week, so you have time to get prepared. Remember, we fish caddis differently than mayfly hatches — you’ve got to skitter and skate those dry flies!

A Colorado River brown trout.
Courtesy of Scott Spooner

Midges are still important, especially on the ever-icy waters of the famed Fryingpan River. These bugs run the gamut, from a “huge” size-18 down to as small as you’re willing to tie on. Small winter stoneflies are everywhere on the upper river, the streamer game has been strong, and we should see dependable numbers of BWOs up there soon. Don’t overlook the lower reaches of the Fryingpan this time of year; it’s always warmer and oftentimes even buggier!

Don’t fret if you see some off-color water here and there. These are normal changes for this time of year and we typically don’t start to experience real runoff until mid-May. Dirty water should clue you in on trying some bigger flies like golden stones and caddis larva — and, you guessed it, worms! Some of our lower-elevation lakes are losing their ice caps now, and there is some spring warm water fishing on deck, too. In other words, it doesn’t matter where you go fish, just go!

This report is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374 or TaylorCreek.com.

Community profile: No time to take it easy — from basketball courts to Christmas lights and coaching, Mike Picore takes on a cornucopia of ways to give back to Glenwood springs

Mike Picore stands on the blacktop of the new basketball court at Sayre Park.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Sayre Park is a special place for many in Glenwood Springs, where basketball players young and old come to partake in the great tradition of pickup basketball.

And when the weather’s warm enough, it’s hard for anyone driving along Grand Avenue to miss this centralized spectacle of asphalt jump shots and crossovers.

It’s a scene crafted in large part by Glenwood Springs resident Mike Picore.

Over the past 23 years, Picore has devoted much of his time to essentially making Sayre Park into what it is today: A street ball mecca.

On April 3, Picore was nominated by local real estate agent Joy White to receive Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association’s Dean Vogelaar Citizen of the Year award.

“He’s always looking to help people,” White said. “It doesn’t matter who you are, what language you speak, where you’re from, he is trying to find out how he can help you.”

Picore is originally from Deadwood, South Dakota. He spent time living on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, before his family moved to Worland, Wyoming, in 1979.

By 1999, Picore moved to Garfield County, where he took a job with Bank of Colorado.

This was a time when Picore, then 24, found himself in social limbo. Not a lot of people living in Glenwood Springs were in their 20s, so it was tough to meet new people.

“I didn’t have anything to do, and I didn’t know anybody,” Picore said. “So every night after work, we basically would go to Sayre Park and play pickup basketball.”

It was there he’d meet and shoot hoops with Glenwood Springs locals Fred Heisel, Craig Amichaux, Mike Vidakovich, Scott Bolitho and Kevin Flohr. These local legends all had a hand in winning either the 1979 or 1984 state basketball championships as Glenwood Springs Demons.

“I know those guys were all kind of in that group,” Picore said. “I just know because I always had to listen to them tell me about how good they were.”

It was also during this time Picore spearheaded an effort to host the first ever HoopD’Ville Basketball Tournament. This 4-on-4 tournament now attracts players from all over Colorado.

“I first met Mike probably 20 years ago when he first moved here, and he played basketball out at the park, and he started doing those HoopD’Ville tournaments — the three-on-three and four-on-four at Sayre Park,” Vidakovich said. “I always had a team, and a lot of the old Glenwood players made a point of starting to come back each summer for those two tournaments.”

But what’s most pivotal about this moment in Glenwood Springs history is how the tournament would bifurcate into a major fundraising event. From sponsorships to schwag, Picore used his then-position with Bank of Colorado to gather significant donations amassed from the basketball tournament to local charity organizations.

Picore also started setting funds aside to get the courts at Sayre Park redone. Teaming up with people like former Glenwood Springs basketball player Cassandra Irving and Greg Rippy of Grand River Construction Co., Picore helped raise more than $100,000 to help revitalize Sayre Park.

“We’re super excited,” Picore said. “The city, once they OK’d it, they’ve been super awesome.”

Mike Picore sits on the new bleachers next to the new basketball court at Sayre Park.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Meanwhile, Picore has used philanthropic talents derived from his love of basketball to help fundraise for so many other projects around the Glenwood Springs Community.

After establishing the Glenwood Springs Public Education Fund, Picore, with the help of so many others, has helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to give back to public schools. The fundraiser: Roaring Forks, Corks and Kegs.

In 2021, Picore also coordinated with the Glenwood Springs Chamber of Commerce to help create the Winter Wonderland event at Hotel Colorado.

When Picore is not fundraising, he’s coaching his children — Hayden, Mason and Austin — in basketball. Picore is married to his wife, Kristi.

Picore has operated Bay Equity branches throughout the Roaring Fork and Colorado valleys.

For Vidakovich, Picore’s efforts throughout the years are invaluable to making Glenwood Springs the best community it can be.

“He’s always been such an even-keel type of person,” he said of Picore. “I’ve never seen Mike not have a positive attitude and a smile on his face. He’s pretty unique.”

“I think Glenwood is lucky to have him around.”

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@postindependent.com