County seeks feedback on
Roaring Fork Gorge Management Plan
October brings new opportunities for the public to offer input on future management of the Roaring Fork Gorge, a popular collection of open space properties near Aspen.
A draft management plan for the area was released at the end of last month, and reviewed during a joint meeting of Pitkin County commissioners and the county’s Open Space and Trails board of trustees. Formal adoption of the plan is expected in December.
The gorge encompasses roughly four miles of open space and recreational amenities along the Roaring Fork River outside of Aspen, between Stein and Jaffee parks, including a stretch of the Rio Grande Trail. Eight public properties and two fishing easements are part of this playground – a scenic destination for anglers, boaters, cross-country skiers, bicyclists, walkers, joggers and equestrians.
“We spent much of the summer seeking input from all of these user groups,” said Lindsey Utter, recreation planner for Pitkin County Open Space and Trails. “Their insights helped shape the management plan and some of their ideas have become formal recommendations for improving the amenities in the gorge or for better management of the area.”
The Rio Grande Trail at Stein Park saw nearly 1,000 users this year on July 4, and more than 600 passersby per day, on average, were logged at the park during the month of July – staggering numbers as use of Pitkin County open space goes, according to Utter.
Proposed management actions in the draft plan include measures aimed at both recreation and conservation.
Among them is creating a dual surface for the Rio Grande Trail in the lower two miles of the gorge, upvalley from Jaffee Park, where there is room for both a paved and a soft surface. The draft plan recommends this project be done in 2014, leaving for the future a decision about the upper two miles of trail in the gorge, where physical constraints make a dual surface unfeasible. Upgrades to the gravel surface or paving the upper two miles are both options for consideration at a later date.
The plan also proposes upgrades at both Stein and Jaffee parks, including parking, restroom and handicap-accessible improvements, as well as, potentially, a water-bottle filling station at Stein Park.
Study of an improved trail connection between the city of Aspen’s Burlingame Ranch affordable housing and the Rio Grande Trail is recommended for next year, as well, as are upgrades to the trail between Stein Bridge and the Rio Grande. The bridge, crossing the Roaring Fork below the Aspen Business Center, is slated for repairs next year. Raising the span to better accommodate boating at high water is among the recommendations.
The plan also recommends that wildlife and vegetation studies take place in 2014 to inform a River Conservation Plan in 2015.
Open houses to collect input on the draft management plan will be held Oct. 10 and 29 in the Rio Grande Room in Aspen, and Oct. 16 in the CMC-Aspen Art Gallery Room. They will all take place from 4-6 p.m.
In addition, site visits via bicycle are planned Oct. 8 from 1-3 p.m. and Oct. 21 from 5-7 p.m. Participants should bring a bike and meet at Stein Park, but an RSVP is required in order to join a bike tour.
The management plan, plus appendices, is available online at www.pitkinostprojects.com. Citizens may also provide comments to the plan via the website and go online to RSVP for a bike outing. http://www.pitkinOSTprojects.com or call to RSVP 920-5223.