Indy Pass gateway could get makeover |

Indy Pass gateway could get makeover

Independence Pass Foundation has subitted a proposal to the U.S. Forest Service to clean up the area around the winter closure gate on Highway 82 east of Aspen. The concrete barriers would be replaced by a low stone wall and parking would be designated.
Aspen Times file photo |

For information on the project, visit the White River National Forest website at or call Martha Moran of the Forest Service at 963-2266.

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The Independence Pass Foundation is advancing a plan to spiff up the area around the winter closure gate on Highway 82 east of Aspen and make it befitting of a gateway to a spectacular mountain route.

Under the nonprofit organization’s plan, the hodgepodge parking would be formally laid out for 23 vehicles and three recreational vehicles. A turn around space for big rigs would also be preserved.

Rest area facilities would also be installed, featuring an emergency telephone; informational signs on recreation, the environment and the highway; and a loading dock for snowmobiles and equipment used by the Colorado Department of Transportation.

The Aspen-Sopris Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service is reviewing the foundation’s proposal. The Forest Service is taking public comment until March 19.

All of the proposed improvements will remain within the already disturbed area. People who ski, hike or snowmobile past the winter gate park in a wide spot on the north side of the road. The gate is about 5 miles east of Aspen at mile marker 47. Jersey barriers run parallel to the highway on both sides of the gate. A low stonewall would replace the concrete barriers.

“I think it’s a great project. It’s an area that everybody sees and everybody uses and nobody appreciates,” said Mark Fuller, executive director of the Independence Pass Foundation. The approval of the project could be Fuller’s swan song. He is retiring after nearly 20 years at the helm of the foundation. The group’s major accomplishment includes stabilizing the slope at what’s known as the top cut on the last switchback before the summit of Independence Pass.

In a letter opening the public comment process, the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District acknowledged a need for the project.

“Current conditions do not adequately present traveler and recreational information, accommodate trailhead user parking and large vehicle turnaround, or provide an attractive gateway to Independence Pass,” the letter said. “There is a need to improve the condition and functionality of the site to more safely and effectively accommodate the types of use already present and reduce environmental impacts.”

Depending on the comments and the agency’s response, a Categorical Exclusion might be granted for the project. That simplifies the federal review and speeds the project.

Fuller said the foundation will raise funds to undertake the project. He estimated the cost at $500,000. It is his hope that work is underway and completed “within a couple years.”

Fuller believes Aspen-area residents and visitors will appreciate a more fitting to Independence Pass from the west side.

“As it looks now, it sort of looks like a semi-industrial wasteland,” he said.

For information on the project, visit the White River National Forest website, The Aspen Times website or call Martha Moran of the Forest Service at 970-963-2266.

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