The plan for the open space at the entrance to Aspen is to leave it largely unchanged

Emily Couture is cycling through the flowering fields of the Marolt Open Space in Aspen on Friday, June 25, 2021 (Kelsey Brunner / The Aspen Times)

Much of a management plan for Marolt Open Space centers on leaving the 74.5-acre parcel at the entrance to Aspen as is, which runs counter to growing opposition to the strategy. proposed.

When the city’s open space officials presented the plan to the city of Aspen Tip earlier this month, the conversation revolved around the possibility of a small bicycle park on the southwest part of the plot, which is not part of the dedicated open space.

The council’s preliminary support prompted residents, who may not have read the draft 77-page management plan, to sign a petition urging city officials to leave the space open on its own.

But the petition assumes that city officials want to change the way open space is used.

“Petition holders did not participate in public comment and assumed it would be in the Marolt Open Space,” Open Spaces and Trails Board member Ted Mahon said last week. from the city. “If they read the draft management plan and the comments from our friends and neighbors, they would be at peace with it.

The plan was drafted after efforts to educate the public both in person and online, with more than 200 people commenting on the future of the Marolt Open Space.

“The most common theme of the general comments was the desire to leave Marolt’s open space mostly unchanged,” the draft plan reads. “It is not lost on the public, based on the number of comments, that the Marolt Open Space speaks volumes about the values ​​of the community, as evidenced by its role in bringing Aspen.

“The citizens of Aspen place great importance on the preservation and maintenance of open natural spaces such as this property in and around the city.

Therefore, the overall desired result is that the open space should remain relatively unchanged.

“In general, there should be no changes to the general appearance and function of Marolt’s open space, except for minor modifications which do not change the basic character and uses of the property.” , according to the plan.

The Marolt Open Space (which is the heart-shaped area to the right of the golf course) is nearly 75 acres and sits at the entrance to Aspen. (Jim Hoddenback / Photo provided by the City of Aspen)

Pedal for a pocket park

Dozens of comments were made during the public awareness period in 2019 and earlier this year by people interested in a new skills-building bike park for young cyclists.

Open space officials are considering a small plot of property on the southwest edge of the plot, which sits on what’s known as Thomas Open Space.

Due to land use code restrictions associated with the Marolt Open Space plot, this portion of the property is not suitable for use as a site for a bicycle park, according to the management plan.

The document refers to exploring the feasibility of developing a small bicycle park.

Matt Kuhn, the city’s director of parks and open spaces, said the plan only guides officials on whether to consider a future bicycle park.

An entirely new community discussion and public awareness effort would occur once a concept is devised.

Poppies blow in the wind in the Marolt Open Space in Aspen on Friday, June 25, 2021 (Kelsey Brunner / The Aspen Times)

This would likely be done by the Roaring Fork Mountain Biking Association, which offered to work with the city’s open spaces and trails council.

That design and discussion could take place next year, as determined by the board, according to Kuhn.

He said he recognized that there were conflicting views in the community on the issue.

“There are a lot of people out there who want a bike park,” Kuhn said, “and also people think it’s a bad idea.”

As a member of the Open Spaces and Trails Board of Directors, Mahon said he and his colleagues have a responsibility to listen to the people who participated in the public comment period, but that doesn’t mean that a bicycle park is set in stone.

“We’re just having a conversation based on the feedback we’ve received,” he said. “It respects the comments made and I’m all for having a discussion. “

A guide for the future

The plan is an update and guides open space officials on how to manage the plot and preserve the land for the next 10 years.

This includes maintaining the infrastructure on the property, as well as native vegetation and trails.

Some of the action items in the plan are harmless, such as replacing the safety gate along Route 82, adding orientation signs to help people navigate the property, or building a path. commuter to divert users from non-designated trails.

Another element is to allow dogs to play in Marolt Pond but not in wetlands in order to protect the riparian zone in the middle of the property in order to protect wildlife habitat.

An example of protecting native vegetation was erecting a fence near the community garden to prevent people from parking in non-designated areas, Kuhn said.

Sheri Sanzone follows her two black labs Bates and Foster through the trails of Marolt Open Space in Aspen on Thursday, June 10, 2021 (Kelsey Brunner / The Aspen Times)

A sacred place for many

There are several different areas on the plot that have different uses, Kuhn noted.

“There are a number of ecosystems and management strategies to protect them,” he said. “We want people to walk around the property and we intend to keep the space for multiple users. “

The property is home to a mining and ranching museum, community garden, wildlife habitat, buffer zones between landscaped and natural areas, backcountry ski trails, paragliding landing area and trails cycle paths that serve as community connectors.

Bordered by Castle Creek Road, Moore Open Space, Roundabout, Hwy 82, Power Plant Road, and Castle Creek, Marolt Open Space consists of open grassy meadows, stands of aspen, cottonwood, and spruce trees, mountain shrub areas, willows and riparian poplar ecosystems. , and fragments of a sagebrush ecosystem, as well as wetlands, irrigation ditches and a stretch of Castle Creek, according to the management plan.

In the early 1980s, the city acquired two plots of land for the purpose of making it a passive park that would serve as a hub for the local trail system.

The Thomas plot was acquired in 1982 and the Marolt property was acquired in 1983. Fifty-seven and a half acres were purchased with open space funds, 6.76 acres were purchased with transportation funds, and 10, 1 acres were donated by the Marolt family to the city, according to the document.

Kuhn said the Open Spaces and Trails Department intends to stay consistent with the idea that the property is a visual and physical representation of the values ​​of the community which should be free from development and makes a statement on the image of Aspen to all who pass through it. , as stated in the document.

“It will remain relatively unchanged because that’s what we heard from the community,” he said.

On June 17, the Open Space and Trails Council voted to return the plan to council for final approval, which could be next month.

Aspen native Steve Marolt, who said last week that he had not read the management plan and that his relationship with the property is just a namesake, signed the online petition urging the city to refrain from changing anything about the open space.

“It’s a visual masterpiece,” he said. “You can’t improve on perfection. “

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