Pitkin County mulls appeal of Forest Service travel management plan
The Aspen Times
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
An appeal to the U.S. Forest Service’s long-awaited Travel Management Plan for the White River National Forest may be in order on a couple of issues, Pitkin County commissioners agreed Tuesday.
In addition, local backcountry group Powder to the People is contemplating an appeal of the plan with regard to public snowmobile access on Richmond Ridge.
The county’s objections to the management plan, which was released last month, center on the opening of some county open-space parcels to motorized use and closing off a trail connection in the Crystal River Valley, according to county Open Space and Trails officials.
The motorized access issue involves mining claims in Kobey Park outside of Lenado and Sellars Park in the upper Fryingpan River Valley. In both cases, the county asked that its land be excluded from winter motorized use and that maps designating areas that are open to snowmobiling be drawn in such a way as to exclude the county properties, commissioners were told.
Preventing snowmobiling on county mining claims that aren’t easily distinguished from Forest Service lands would be difficult, said Dale Will, Open Space and Trails director.
“It’s hard for us to supervise them [the parcels],” he said.
The Kobey Park mining claims are remote and the terrain is steep. It may not lend itself to snowmobiling anyway, noted Barb D’Autrechy, Open Space and Trails acquisition manager.
“I’m hoping the conflict will be more on paper than actual use,” she said.
Future use of part of a wagon road the county constructed in the Crystal River Valley in the 1880s is also compromised by the Travel Management Plan, according to Will.
Known locally as the Bear Creek Trail, upvalley from Redstone, it has been identified as a potential piece of a trail between Carbondale and Crested Butte, but the Travel Management Plan could prevent its use for that purpose, or actually close it, Will told commissioners.
“We’ve asked them to reconsider that,” he said.
Rather than discuss the conflicts informally with the Forest Service, Commissioner George Newman suggested the county file a formal appeal. The appeal period ends June 17.
“Once that appeal period has ended, we’ve lost that ability,” he said.
Commissioner Michael Owsley expressed disappointment that the Travel Management Plan doesn’t designate winter access to Kobey Park from any area but Lenado. Parking on the road above Lenado has been an ongoing controversy for the county.
“It’s such a huge area that’s served by that tiny little road … that road is insufficient to deal with that, period,” Owsley said.
Powder to the People has yet to decide whether it will appeal the Travel Management Plan with respect to access on Richmond Ridge, on the back side of Aspen Mountain, according to spokesman Mike Sladdin.
The management plan maintains the status quo, limiting private snowmobilers to county roads in order to access the backcountry powder. Powder to the People has pressed for a “gentleman’s agreement” that allows public access to an over-the-snow road used by Aspen Powder Tours, an Aspen Skiing Co. operation that holds a permit with the Forest Service. It offers backcountry powder tours with use of a snowcat to ferry customers.
“If we can’t get the gentlemen’s agreement, yeah, we’re probably going to have to appeal,” Sladdin said Tuesday.
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